Transportation Infrastructure: Progress On and Challenges to Central Artery/Tunnel Project’s Cost and Financing
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Transportation Infrastructure: Progress On and Challenges to Central Artery/Tunnel Project’s Cost and Financing

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      The Central Artery/Tunnel project in Boston, Massachusetts--one of the largest, most complex, and most expensive highway construction projects ever undertaken--is well under way, with contracts worth nearly $8 billion either completed or awarded. Construction began in 1991, and the project is expected to be substantially completed in December 2004. As of February 1997, federal funds accounted for $4.7 billion (about 82%) of the $5.7 billion obligated for the project, with the remainder coming from state funds. The level of future federal funding for the project depends upon the amount provided under the next federal highway program authorization; the current authorization expires on September 30, 1997. In response to concerns about the need to monitor the costs of this project and the uncertainties associated with its financing, the General Accounting Office (GAO) evaluated (1) the estimated cost of the project and (2) Massachusetts' plans for financing it. Briefly, GAO found the following: As of March 1997, the total cost of the project was estimated to be $10.8 billion. This is based on assumed insurance savings of $778 million that would not be realized until 2017. As a result, the project's total funding needs through 2004 are $11.6 billion. Uncertainties exist about the projected insurance savings. The state's estimate also depends on aggressive cost containment. Current trends in costs could result in an increase between $100 million and $500 million. Massachusetts has implemented a plan to finance its share of the project's cost, including a strategy to finance funding shortfalls. However, the shortfall finance plan may be insufficient to meet the project's financing needs because it substantially covers the funding shortfalls only under the best case funding scenario modeled in the feasibility study. In addition, the plan depends on grant anticipation notes that rely on federal funds that may not be authorized until after the next federal highway
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