Nicole Gelinas looks at the lessons from Boston's "Big Dig." An excerpt:
True, critics aren’t being entirely fair when they compare the project’s final cost, $14.8 billion, with the initial estimate; $2.6 billion in 1982 is $5.6 billion today, thanks to inflation. And inflation has similarly distorted the cost of the many expensive changes made to the project—because the more realistic cost estimates that accounted for those changes were also calculated in then-current dollars, rather than in the dollars that the state eventually had to pay. Still, there’s a lesson here for managers of other infrastructure projects: be careful with that first number, because it can become a permanent benchmark against which to measure success or failure.
Perhaps it’s understandable that inflation and massive increases in scope would swell the project’s price tag. But the Big Dig’s planners truly failed the public through a deliberate decision: for years, they used dubious accounting methods that hid true costs.