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Fun with Numbers! The Flyvbjerg Award Goes to…

When I saw this article entitled “Why Do We Get Megaproject Costs Wrong?” the first thing that came to my mind was the Peace Bridge and its ugly sister, the truck plaza.  

The first and most relevant thing you’ll see from the top graphic is that in pushing agendas, there is always bound to be some sort of delusion, which may be nothing more than good intentions, based on the wrong data. In the case of the truck plaza/Peace Bridge/historic neighborhood tie-in, the delusional aspect could be traced to 20-year-old data.  But Flyvberg states it best when he says, “…the higher the political stakes, the more likely it is that deception is involved.”  
See the story here, in which an Olmsted attorney disputes the concessions the Public Bridge Authority’s Ron Rienas holds out as a good thing for the neighborhood, while endeavoring to wipe out 80-some homes including this one (which, by the way, is on the Preservation Board docket at 3PM today in room 921, City Hall).
Here’s the thing – with shared border management a likely no-go, it’s believed that the building of a larger customs plaza will be sped up, and that a new bridge can be built by 2019, according to Anthony Annunziata, chairman of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority.  Annunziata was quoted in The Niagara Falls Review as saying, “We
can safely say we’ve exhausted all our [shared border] options … and will now move on to the
next solution, which is to complete the plaza on the US side and move
forward with relieving a lot of congestion on the border.”

But the question of a price tag for the new bridge and who will pay for it has not been answered, which brings us back to the graph and this question: Shouldn’t the public be informed about how much and who pays, before any new phase of this project gets underway?
The top referenced article states: Few people
think of themselves as liars; but it’s easy to see people convincing themselves
that wildly optimistic cost estimates are actually quite reasonable.
Subjectively, “strategic misrepresentation” can feel a lot like
honesty.  (For a similar phenomenon, see last week’s
Newsweek article on 
why people believe
lies
, even
when shown a clear explanation of the truth.)

So if things are going to speed up, don’t you think it’s time to get some truthful and definitive answers about the funding – and fast?


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