Report lays out local pitfalls of the Olympic bid

This week’s release of an independent consultant’s analysis of the now-defunct Boston 2024 Olympic bid reads like the autopsy report of a patient who had suffered from a litany of chronic illnesses.

The fundamental flaws in the pro-Olympic argument on the Dorchester front were always primarily financial in nature – particularly when it became clear that 2024 planners had failed to accurately state the full dimensions of public expenditures that would be needed for infrastructure improvements, including some right here in our backyard.

The Brattle Group report, funded at a cost to taxpayers of $250,000, specifically noted that “necessary infrastructure improvement expenses, including power and signal upgrades on the MBTA and a new bus facility, may have been significantly underestimated in Boston 2024’s projections for the games,” according to the State House News Service. The report also noted that one of several unfunded “legacy” transportation projects itemized by Boston 2024 planners – improvements to JFK-UMass station that were estimated at $60 million in the latest 2.0 bid – would likely have fallen significantly short of the mark..

“Based on the limited information provided by Boston 2024, the MBTA believes that the upgrades [at JFK-UMass] recommended by Boston 2024 would have been insufficient to provide the full benefits, and that an additional $40 million to $50 million in upgrades would have been necessary for the MBTA to comply with all codes,” the report reads.
“In addition, we have been advised that the MBTA estimates additional operation and maintenance costs of an upgraded JFK Station to be approximately $500,000 per year.”

The report also noted that “[g]iven the limited time that the MBTA has had to evaluate Boston 2024’s plans, the MBTA did not conduct an independent study to determine whether the projects discussed above were the best projects to meet the needs of the Olympic Games and post-Olympic development.”

What does the report say about Kosciuszko Circle, the most significant roadway improvement project that would have been attached to the Games? Boston 2024 had estimated that between $120 million and $220 million in state funds would have been needed to upgrade the traffic rotary before the Games started. The Brattle team found that while the Kosciuszko Circle plans were “the most developed of the road projects proposed by Boston 2024,” they still “lacked sufficient detail for a full evaluation to estimate the cost and possible contingencies and risks.”

Based on the limited nature of the information provided, MassDOT estimated the project would have cost between $174 million and $240 million.”

And here’s the kicker on the Kosciuszko Circle front: “Even if the project could have been completed in time, residents and local businesses would have been inconvenienced over an extended period throughout the various construction phases and multiple construction seasons.”

There were many more holes in the plan that the Brattle Group posthumously uncovered that, collectively, would have doomed it, even if it had survived through the ides of July.

A close reading of the report leaves one clear impression: As anti-Olympic activists have made clear, the Commonwealth dodged a bullet in “losing” out on this otherwise well-meaning endeavor.