May 19, 2014

The May 15 Metro article “Why costs often creep on public projects” illustrated an alarming tolerance for what was called a “script,” in which public officials underestimate the real costs of public-works projects to garner public support. What was described as routine optimism by public officials and proponents of mega-projects such as the Purple Line would be chicanery at best and fraud at worst in most other contexts. In effect, the article suggested that the way to get a public-works project off the ground is to overstate the benefits and understate the costs, misleading people, in particular taxpayers. When the higher costs and lower benefits are disclosed, it is too late to abandon the project.

How many times does the public have to get burned by such deception? Apparently there is no limit, as evidenced by the Purple Line, for which the cost of $2.37 billion (almost $150 million per mile) is twice the original projection and still going up.

Glenn A. Mitchell, Chevy Chase