- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Transportation Department will soon have to release its first name-and-shame list of federally funded projects that have ballooned a billion dollars over budget.

Language demanding the report was tucked into the major infrastructure bill Congress passed last year, and Sen. Joni Ernst, the Iowa Republican who put it there, said taxpayers deserve to know when things have gone that far awry.

The report will also cover projects getting Transportation Department money that have stretched five years behind schedule.

“Going a billion dollars over budget is not a rounding error and delays of five years or more are not inconsequential interruptions and should not be simply accepted as standard business practices, much less subsidized with blank checks from taxpayers,” Ms. Ernst wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The first report is due before Nov. 15, with annual reports to follow.

Ms. Ernst already has one project she expects to see on the list: D.C. Metro’s Purple Line, intended to connect remote stations in the Washington suburbs.

She said projected costs have soared from about $2 billion to $3.4 billion, with overall construction and operation costs rising from $5.6 billion to $9.3 billion.

The completion date, meanwhile, has been pushed from this spring to 2026.

Federal taxpayers are already on the hook for about $900 million of the cost of the Purple Line, and the government earlier this year backed a $1.7 billion loan for the project.

Ms. Ernst also flagged a California project adding 6.5 miles to Bay Area Rapid Transit, which she said has doubled in price, from $4.7 billion in 2018 to $9.15 billion now.

A massive high-speed rail project in California has gone from $33 billion in 2008 to $105 billion today, and the expected completion date has been pushed from 2020 to 2033.

Still another project, Hawaii’s High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project, has seen projected costs rise from $5.1 billion to $12.5 billion, and the completion date pushed back more than a decade.

Ms. Ernst gave her monthly “squeal award” to the various projects — and Mr. Buttigieg.

The Squeal Award got its name from Ms. Ernst’s 2014 campaign video where she said she grew up on a farm castrating pigs, and vowed to make Washington’s big spenders shriek the same way.

The department plans to respond to the letter, but said it is “committed to transparency and accountability.”

“We recognize that Congress has entrusted us with valuable taxpayer dollars and we will work diligently to meet these reporting requirements,” the department said. 

The name-and-shame list requires the department to report on the total federal share of each project, names of contractors involved and explanations for the delays or cost increases. Federal officials must also reveal any bonuses or other awards connected with projects.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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