Local U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) announced a bipartisan bill last week that aims to increase the accountability and oversight of large infrastructure projects nationwide.
The Transportation Megaprojects Accountability and Oversight Act (HR 6592) would establish an independent peer review group to assess the quality assurance, cost containment and risk management of federal highway and transportation projects that cost over $2.5 billion.
“While current law requires financial reporting requirements for projects costing more than $500 million, no additional oversight mechanisms exist for large, complex megaprojects,” DeSaulnier’s office said in a statement.
If passed, agencies that receive federal funds for projects over $2.5 billion would need to submit a comprehensive risk management plan that includes a description of identified risks associated with the project. Details would need to address how the agencies intend to eliminate or reduce these potential risks, and any foreseen cost increases for the project.
HR 6592 would also establish an “independent peer review group” of five experts capable of giving advice on “scientific, technical, and management” aspects of the megaproject.
“We need an oversight and review process that will help regain the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to plan, fund, and deliver these important projects and cut down on frustration, delay and waste. The public deserves a system that manages costs, foresees risks, and holds decision-makers accountable,” DeSaulnier said in a statement.
DeSaulnier added that while large infrastructure projects are vital to the country development and economic growth, nine out of every ten “megaprojects” experience cost overruns and significant delays that cost taxpayers millions in additional dollars.
Examples of megaprojects include: the San-Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the I-265 Bridge between Kentucky and Indiana, the Big Dig in Boston, the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York and Denver International Airport.
As the former chairman of the California State Senate Transportation Committee, DeSaulnier has experience working on maintaining large infrastructure projects. During his time on the committee, he tackled numerous issues surrounding the Bay Bridge and carried out an extensive investigation and hearing on the bridges deficiencies. Particularly focusing on how a $5 billion overrun in budget and a 10-year delay occurred.
“While there are some additional requirements for projects costing over $500 million, there isn’t nearly enough risk management or oversight of larger and more complex ‘megaprojects.’ These projects frequently go over budget and experience costly delays that taxpayers foot the bill for. This legislation would help make sure these large infrastructure enterprises stay on budget and on time, and local communities would be better for it,” said U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), who is co-sponsoring the bill.
Copies of the bill have not yet been published by the Government Publishing Office, which says the delay is most likely due to either a large number of bills needing to be prepared or a very large bill needs to be printed.