MTC Considers Stronger Project Oversight and Risk Management Role

In May 2022, the MTC Commission convened a workshop which included discussion of programming and project delivery models for MTC Plan 2050, with particular emphasis on major rail megaprojects. The Workshop addressed building partnerships with rail providers in the region to set up project delivery and governance structures designed to build and operate a more seamless and customer focused rail network. This MTC work is funded by a $400,000 Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant. As part of its work the MTC reviewed past rail project delivery models in the Bay Area, as well as those used in the Toronto Ontario region and in London.

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Additionally, the MTC staff laid out preliminary thinking regarding funding strategy and prioritization, risk management and policy reinforcements in advancing major Tier 1 Plan Bay Area projects (i.e.those programmed for completion by 2035). Anticipating that funding will continue to be limited, Staff also outlined the criteria intended to help prioritize projects. MTC’s staff is clearly aware of the all too frequent major project budget and time schedule overruns and plans to develop a regional risk management program to identify and monitor risks, from early project development through construction and startup. Significant questions remain about the effectiveness of MTC’s intervention mechanisms and the future forcefulness of its anticipated control systems. However, its recent pro-active focus on “getting it right” is encouraging.

History emphatically demonstrates the difficulty of delivering mega-projects within planned time schedules and budgets. The Bay Area is particularly vulnerable in this regard with its emphasis on very large project investments. Strong, persistent and collaborative leadership will be needed to achieve desired outcomes.

Some thoughts for MTC’s consideration include:

  • In the current inflationary and potentially recessionary environment it appears necessary to re-evaluate all projects, at least those in the Tier 1 pipeline, in terms of their proven public benefit, work already paid for and completed, cost effectiveness, quality of administration and likelihood of obtaining necessary State and federal grants.
  • Transit Project sponsors and their consultants frequently fall prey to often unrealized initial bias, unwarranted optimism, pressure from narrowly focused outside interests, inattention to changing conditions and inadequate provision for contingencies. These circumstances argue for two or three thorough peer reviews, beginning  early in the process, to independently analyze and evaluate each oncoming project.
  • No project should be irrevocable. If key issues remain unresolved or circumstances change, there should be a way to redirect, modify or even abandon an intended project.
  • The FTA typically refuses to underwrite cost overruns. The sooner other funding agencies follow suit , the healthier and more focused the implementation programs will become. MTC’s MAP risk-management safeguards, coordinated with BATA, FHWA, FTA, the State of California and other funding sources, should be incorporated into all large Bay Area projects.
  • BATWG applauds MTC’s efforts and initiatives to improve mega-project delivery. The individual jurisdictions, transit agencies – indeed the entire region — would benefit greatly from firm and coordinated regional leadership. MTC is encouraged not to shy away from assuming this role.


One thought on “MTC Considers Stronger Project Oversight and Risk Management Role

  1. it would be wonderful if MTC could convince VTA to “value-engineer” phase 2 of the BART extension by finding a way to economize on the tunnel under Santa Clara Street and eliminating the wasteful, duplicative, extension to Santa Clara.


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