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Slightly OT: "Concerns about dangerous design close exit from new Westpark Tollway" (Brand New Tollway in Houston, Texas)[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
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- Subject: Slightly OT: "Concerns about dangerous design close exit from new Westpark Tollway" (Brand New Tollway in Houston, Texas)
- From: "Bill Polhemus" <bill(--nospam--at)polhemus.cc>
- Date: Tue, 25 May 2004 17:57:43 -0500
This isn't exactly a Structural Engineering story, although there was a whole lotta bridge-work on this thing (I actually got to do a little bit of analysis on some of it as a sub to one of the design consultants), but it is an example of something that never ceases to amaze me where these high-dollar public works projects are concerned.
We have had a similar situation with the new light-rail system running from downtown Houston south to the sports stadium area.
Several years are spent--the design for the Westpark Tollway was begun in early 2000--and many millions in fees are paid out. The contract mandates the use of 3D CAD modeling to help catch problems like this, and what happens? The thing isn't even open two weeks, and they have to shut down a major exit ramp system because the design was faulty!
So what causes this?
IMO, part of the answer--though only part--is the way that such public sector projects are done. High-cost engineering consulting firms are selected as much because of "who they are" politically than their capabilities. The actual work tends to be done by graduate engineers in the trenches armed with elaborate CAD systems like Geopak, and very short on actual, practical knowledge of how things go together.
Everyone cashes the huge fee checks, and then shows up for the ribbon-cutting ceremony receiving the accolades of the politicians and bureaucrats--who can count on large contributions from the consultants in the next election cycle.
But the job is a cock-up.
And guess who ends up footing the bill, brothers and sisters?
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