Strategy: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency could save 5 to 10 percent on capital projects with increased efficiency

Muni spending extra $90M due to project delays

Long-term delays to major infrastructure and rehabilitation projects have resulted in $90 million in projected cost overruns for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. 

Not including the SFMTA’s biggest project — the Central Subway plan — capital ventures overseen by the agency typically run 592 days later than projected, delays that have resulted in millions of dollars in excess costs, according to a new audit.

The SFMTA could reduce costs by conducting more-thorough risk analysis studies, closely monitoring the time charged by contractors for each project and improving the oversight and involvement of the agency’s board of directors, said the audit, prepared by CGR Management Consultants, a private group. All told, the audit identified 19 different recommendations to improve the SFMTA’s capital plans.

The audit of the SFMTA’s capital projects — which entail long-term investments such as vehicle fleet rehabilitation and rail infrastructure replacement — came at the request of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a separate planning body that is governed by The City’s Board of Supervisors.

Currently, the SFMTA is embarking on 29 major capital plans, not including the $1.6 billion Central Subway project. The audit recommended counting that undertaking differently, since it dwarfs all other plans.

The 29 plans — set to be completed over several years — have a projected budget of $800 million, but since they are so prone to delays, an additional $90 million will be added to their price tag. Of the projects reviewed, just one is projected to come in under budget, and 12 are on track to overrun baseline costs by a combined $78 million.

“This would certainly indicate a poor performance,” said Jim Ayers, one of the authors of the audit.

The audit found that the SFMTA could shave 5 to 10 percent off their capital projects by increasing its efficiencies.

With an annual budget of $150 million, that could mean $7.5 million to $15 million in yearly savings.

“These findings are, quite frankly, very sobering,” Supervisor David Campos said at the Transportation Authority board meeting Tuesday. “This points to significant needs for improvement, and shows that we can do a much better job with the resources we have.”

Ed Reiskin, executive director of the SFMTA, said the agency would probably characterize some of the audit’s findings differently, but he added that the report would be helpful.

He said the SFMTA is working hard on increasing the accountability of its capital program by making the costs and scheduling projections of its projects more accurate.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

In the works

Examples of current capital projects:

  • Construction of Islais Creek Maintenance Facility
  • Escalator replacement
  • Cable car propulsion system replacement
  • 21-Hayes pole replacement
  • Green Maintenance Facility rail replacement

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