I-75/575 price tag hits $4 billion

Erick wanted a fight between myself and Rep. Steve “King of the Pavement” Davis, well, here you go.

Rep. Davis likes to point out the cost overruns for transit projects in other parts of the country.  Well what about this boondoggle, Steve? 

The projected price tag for a major expansion of I-75 and I-575 has reached $4 billion. And counting.

When the Georgia Department of Transportation decided in 2005 to negotiate a project to expand I-75 and I-575 with toll lanes north of Atlanta, it estimated the cost of the public-private project at $1.8 billion, or $2.6 billion with inflation included. It was to be the most expensive Georgia road project in history, by a factor of more than 10.

With record inflation in construction costs and changes to the project, the price has gone up by about $1.4 billion, according to a study by state and federal agencies released Monday.

If the project is still feasible, drivers will likely pay the difference in either taxes or tolls.

This makes whatever it costs to run a train from Lovejoy or Athens to downtown a pittance.  You’ve got to wonder why folks like Davis look the other way when it comes to Big Government Pavement.

27 comments

  1. Jason O says:

    I think the point that most people miss on the Roads vs. Rails debate is the cost-effectiveness of the proposal. Iit may cost $4 billion to build a large-scale regional system of roads, but those roads will be servicing a much larger area than light rail could possibly serve for that amount of money. Making a system of rails that moved passengers across the northern part of I-285, up I-75, and further up I575 would cost so much money that it would never be acceptable, practical, or funded.

    It is also noteable that there were several big-name investment banking companies that bid for the public-private initiative to operate the toll portions of the roads, effectively lowering the burden on Georgia taxpayers and allowing those who use the roads to finance the bonds and the operating expenses. If light rail was so practical and market worthy, these same companies would be begging the State to let them build commuter rail along I-285.

    Another major part of the proposal is to enact truck-only lanes to lower the amount of traffic fatalities and the ensuing congestion. There is not one current proposal under which light rail will do anything to alleviate the congestion caused by trucks bypassing the city on I-285.

    Advocates of both roads and light rail get so caught up thinking their opponents are ignorant, they refuse to see the benefits of both types of transportation. Light rail can be beneficial in hevily developed areas; however it is very difficult to install the infrastructure once the area has become developed. This is the reason why light rail has never been succesful in Atlanta. People aren’t willing to pay billions of dollars for something that might help traffic in 15 years. We would simply rather use that same money to build more roads to alleviate congestion now.

    Just because you support light rail and commuter alternatives doesn’t mean that everyone who proposes building a road is an ignorant developer out to line their pockets and nuke the trees.

  2. Ouch! This is terrible and is exactly why we have to start consolidating and start expediting projects. Not only is material and right of way costs skyrocketing but the endless planning cycle is wasting billions of dollars. We have so many agencies that are planning, designing, consulting and reviewing what the other agencies are doing and then sending the projects back through the process to be replanned and designed which is mind boggling how they ever get any roads built. Even people in DOT can’t stand it.

    ARC, GRTA, SRTA, GDOT, GRPA, MARTA, EPD, EPA, FTA, FHWA, USDOT, ………

    I do not want to talk specific about this project yet, at least not before I see the study mentioned in the article. How much private funding is in the project? Why are they expanding the project? And so on. However, I can tell you that Mr. Olen’s backup plan for light rail up 75 and around 285 will cost more than the $4 billion and serve less then 1% of the volume this road project will 🙂

  3. jillchambers says:

    Big companies have invested in rail – but not the way you might imagine. It is only after the taxpayers build the infrastructure! Then the big companies come in and structure a lease/leaseback for the purpose of a corporate tax break on depreciated capital assets. Wachovia, AIG, Wells-Fargo, etc. have entered into these lease/leaseback deals with MARTA. They pay cash upfront to lease the infrastructure and then the transit authority essentially pays a mortgage note on assets originally paid for by the taxpayers. MARTA has leased out the south and east lines and most of their rail cars in this type of deal. My explanation is somewhat simplified here but this was enough of a concern that US Senator Chuck Grassley has investigated the program: http://grassley.senate.gov/releases/2003/p03r11-18.htm

    and here:
    http://www.finance.senate.gov/press/Gpress/2005/prg042105.pdf

    Hey Chuck – you should run for President!

  4. Bull Moose says:

    I’m involved heavily in transportation planning in Chatham County and I can tell you that it is true that the costs of transportation projects have gone up A LOT due to the price of asphalt and cement. It’s astounding.

    But one of the things that I learned through a presentation from transportation planners is that we do reach a point where expanding roads has the exact opposite affect on traffic. Instead of making it better – it makes it worse.

    We’ve got to stop looking to asphalt and concrete for the solutions to moving people around.

    We need to begin investing NOW in alternatives like HIGH SPEED RAIL. As well, there needs to be a full embrace in the DOT of context sensitive design. All of you non-transportation people google it.

    Asphalt and concrete aren’t the solution and Rep. Davis you’re doing our state a disservice by pushing that as the cure all solution to our transportation woes.

    ————————————————————

    As for transportation funding, Georgia needs to embrace the Florida model and allow SPLOST to be extended out at a community’s discretion to 10, 15, and 30 year increments if they so desire.

    With the ability to bond and finance local communities can better address their transportation related problems in a timely fashion.

  5. Steve how is it that you must reserve comment on a road building project that appears to *stink* until you “read the report” yet you can confidently say that a competing rail project would service less than 1% the capacity?

    You must be some sort of psychic genius to know nothing about one project but be able to make concrete (no pun intended) comparisons to another one!

    Jill, what does that have to do with future rail projects? We get it, MARTA hasn’t been the most well run organization! According to the links you provide, these LILO’s and SILO’s seem to be a way for corporations to defraud the federal government out of tax money and allow for cities/states to get a little money out of the deal, but they have almost nothing to do with the way MARTA’s trains and buses run and they have absolutely nothing to do with with a proposed rail line to alleviate congestion and provide Georgians with transportation alternatives along our major interstate corridors.

    You guys our elected representatives of our government, how about telling us 1) how much it actually costs the taxpayer to subsidize additional daily travel by car in a project like this and 2) what the comparative cost is for rail. That would at least get the ball rolling. If not we can continue talking about the “Glory Days” of past MARTA financial mismanagement.

  6. CobbGOPer says:

    Screw all this. Where’s my transporter (the ‘beam me up’ kind)? Can someone please get to work on that?

  7. Chris, point taken. I was commenting from my experience and on other facts dealing with rail and the percentages it typically has. I dont have the proper information on either projects, my apologies.

  8. SpaceyG says:

    I’m with CobbGOPer on this one… if more people would just shut-up and blog, from home, then we could save ga-zillions a minute.

    And Bellsouth/AT&T shareholders…listen up! You need to get movin’ on laying out some cold hard dividend cash on some fiber optics, k? Not hording it all for some precious Little Heir-in-your-mind, one who’s just going to end-up an alcoholic bum anyways with all that Daddy’s money.

    That way even more businesses, and monkey business, could be confined to the home and not be dependent on these “pharoah” projects.

  9. Erick says:

    Preach it SpaceyG. I’m amazed European and Asian households have 50MB connections for less than my 7MB connection from home.

  10. IndyInjun says:

    Nowhere has the hyperinflationary impact of a 70% increase in money supply under the DC arm of the GOP party-hearty crowd been more evident as in concrete, steel, and asphalt prices.

    The mad borrow-print-spend cycle is unlike any seen before in US history.

    It cost a lot to build roads under Paul Von Hindenburg in the days of the Weimar Republic, too.

    Von Hindenburg was a paragon of fiscal virtue next to the current national GOP.

  11. Bill Simon says:

    Indy,

    Since when does raising interest rates cause the money supply to “increase?” This Fed has done nothing but squash the money supply this decade.

    You can preach, but work on getting your terminology straight, why doncha?

  12. Rick Day says:

    As a man who drives back and forth to Ellijay weekly, I make simple observations and ask myself simple questions, like “once I get past Exit 11 on 575, even at rush hour, its not so bad. Why are they even building this mess?”

    Besides to make the rich a bit richer, of course.

    I can understand 3-4 lanes to exit 8 (“Weedstock”) or maybe 11(Holly Springs). But toll roads on 575? Why?

    Want to reduce congestion? Encourage more people to ride motorcycles! How? Ask me, I dare you!

    Darn you all to Heck, Atlanta is going to wind up like the City of Dallas, TX. Every job and business moved north because of the congestion.

    And the people followed. And the tax base. And the poor and criminal element now populate that city.

    Ohh…maybe thats the plan!

    Stop it with my tax money, please?

    PS: MZ Chambers: no maa’m. YOU run for President.

    Rep Davis: YOU fix the damn system, instead of passing the buck/pointing the finger. Outlaw planning!

    Or..something…

  13. John Galt says:

    Great point Bill.

    I suspect also that Bush’s leftist imposition of tariffs on steel has caused an increase in input costs.

  14. IndyInjun says:

    Bill Simon:

    It is YOU who should check facts before blasting ME.

    The broad measure M3 Money Supply stood at $7.1 Trillion at the end of 2000 and stood at $10.3 trillion at the end of March 2006, for an increase of 46%. The reason that the M3 stats go no farther than March 2003 is that the Fed discontinued publishing the stats because the money supply is being increased by more than 10% annually and they did not wish to spook the markets.

    Bush and the GOP-controlled Fed have embarked on a strategy of hyperinflation. Hyperinflation is defined as double digit inflation and ‘inflation’ is defined as an increase in MONEY SUPPLY.

    Projecting out the increase through the end of the Bush reign indicates a total increase in money supply of very close to 70%.

    I realize that these stats are too complicated for the simple mind, but they can be found at the St. Louis Fed site….http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/data/M3.txt

    Running trade and fiscal deficits in the $trillions requires financing from SOMEWHERE, and that somewhere is the creation of $trillions in new ‘money’ (in reality new debt).

    Throwing such enormous sums into the US economy and weakening the $US has exploded the price of EVERYTHING, especially concrete, steel, copper, and asphalt.

    Money supply can and does increase independently of interest rates, just as the idiocy of Bush continues to expand independently of GOP principles.

  15. jsm says:

    in·fla·tion(n-flshn)n. – A persistent increase in the level of consumer prices or a persistent decline in the purchasing power of money, caused by an increase in available currency and credit beyond the proportion of available goods and services. (from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)

    Indy, you left out the part about proportion to “available goods and services.” Try this site: http://inflationdata.com/inflation/inflation_rate/CurrentInflation.asp

    Tying inflation directly to the increase in money supply is wrong. Even money neutrality would require that the money supply increase as available goods and services increase in our economy.

  16. IndyInjun says:

    Well Bill Simon was shown to be decisively wrong on money supply and his interest rate assertion was totally absurd. Interest rates have increased since the start of the decade? While interest rates were increased in late 2005 and into 2006, earlier in the decade interest rates were at record lows and stayed around an absurdly-low 1% for many months.

    JSM – no disagreement here, although other dictionaries use the old-timey definition of inflation as an increase in the money suppply PERIOD.

    The very valid reason why the road project costs have explodes is that over the last 3 to 5 years concrete is up 70%, reinforcement steel has doubled, asphalt is up triple digits, as is copper.

    I do believe that you are paying gasoline prices that have more than doubled since Bush took office. Georgia Power has had rate increases of something like 17% in the aggregate in less than 3 years. Corn prices have doubled. My favorite orange juice is up 50% in the last 18 months. My health insurance premiums just went up 30%.

    In the real world, prices are exploding. In the make-believe world of government inflation stats that the GOP apologists cite, inflation is ‘low’.

    Families are stressed to the max. They don’t believe for a nanosecond that inflation is low.

    DOT faces exploding costs largely because we have a wildly irresponsible government that has spent $trillions it doesn’t have and has created out of thin air. The GOP and Fed have destroyed the US dollar as a ‘store of value’ and the Democrats do not seem to be doing better.

    The movement toward investing in ‘things’ because bank savings are constantly devalued is producing higher costs, in this case for Georgia DOT.

  17. jsm says:

    Indy, I think you’re leaving out the effects of booming industrialization in China, OPEC production caps, and the liberal/enviro-whacko lockdown on domestic fuel sources and refining capacities. None of these factors can be attributed to President Bush or the “DC arm of the GOP party-hearty crowd.” No doubt they have spent like drunken sailors, but Bush has managed to keep a robust economy in the face of disasters that very easily could have sunk it.

    Choices have consequences–good and bad. Our Nation has made choices that have caused us to struggle some financially but also have gutted and scrambled terror networks in an effort to provide peace and security for future generations. Road projects may cost a lot more because of our fight, but that doesn’t mean we don’t build necessary roads.

    Back to the subject of the thread, government is not known for its efficiency, especially in infrastructure-building. I believe we could find fat in the price of this project, but I doubt anyone is willing to root it out.

  18. IndyInjun says:

    jsm-

    The Bush policy of stimulating the economy via $trillions in borrowed money, which increases money supply, DIRECTLY impacts the GLOBAL economy. The Chinese, in order to maintain their 8:1 currency peg, have increased their own money supply by creating yuan and using their $US surplus to buy US Treasuries. (this is what has kept long-term rates unusally low.)

    The Asian nations now hold $2 trillion of our debt and hold the financial destiny of the USA in their hands.

    Recessions are natural occurences that are NEEDED to clear out financial imbalances. For political advantage, the GOP administration decided to forestall the recession building in 2001.

    Instead of using 9/11 to ask national sacrifice, which would have been embraced by the citizenry, your corrupt POTUS advised us all to go out and spend. We did and he did. Now the indebtedness threatens the USA with financial collapse or Weimar inflation.

    The Chinese have been going all over the world securing commodities for decades to come, using their trade surpluses from the US to do so.

    We are bankrupt and the Chinese own our note, thanks to the worst POTUS in the history of the USA. A sworn enemy could not have accomplished as much.

    I voted GOP my entire life and probably contributed more than most here, but will not vote for any GOPer as long as the current batch of imposters are still in office. After 2006 they won’t be seeing any contributions, either.

    As for DOT, they have a very impressive contract management system, adequately staffed with oversight capabilities.

    The cost increases are in line with what others are experiencing from INFLATION.

  19. Demonbeck says:

    $4billion? Geez, it might take the Atlanta metro area 2 maybe 3 years to get that kind of money from DOT.

  20. jsm says:

    “For political advantage, the GOP administration decided to forestall the recession building in 2001.”

    For political advantage? Now there’s a gem. What administration wants to just stand back and watch a “needed” recession happen? I could hear it now–“People of the United States, the recession we are entering is needed. Please stand by as you struggle through it, and we’ll see you on the other side.”

  21. IndyInjun says:

    The trouble that the GOP is in RIGHT NOW, is because they asserted that “deficits don’t matter’ and proceeded to spend $trillions that they don’t have.

    Today people understand what causes inflation and they correctly assess the blame on the GOP.

    Y’all will be in the minority for DECADES when this plays out.

    We Indies are the deciders and we have decided to not rest until the GOP is purged and becomes true to its principles.

  22. jsm says:

    I agree that we need to purge the big spenders from the GOP. However, there is no viable alternative on a general election ballot. I certainly can’t trust a Democrat with the People’s money.

    We had better learn to revolutionize the GOP within the primary process and abandon the pervading incumbent-protection philosophy. I’ve already heard Sue Everhart say Saxby won’t be challenged in the primary.

    Don’t forget that Bush had Democratic support on all of his big spending proposals.

  23. IndyInjun says:

    jsm-

    I agree totally with your last post, except that we Indies realize that perfidy is not to be rewarded and will give a Democrat a chance where a Repub has failed the public trust.

    Agreed on the Dem support of Bush spending, with one exception – in about 40 years of Dem control of Congress after 1964, they NEVER attempted anything so grandiose as the Medicare Drug Bill.

    Does Ms. Everhart have the power to assure that Chambliss is not challenged?

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