Monday, September 10, 2012

9/11 Memorial Mega Cost Overuns

The Detroit Free Press: World Trade Center memorial is magnificent -- but at a steep price

It is 11 years since the terrorist attack that destroyed the Twin Towers, the memorial is yet to be complete and the annual budget threatens to take over all of the National Park Services funds and is heading for a billion dollar price tag when you take construction and operating costs into account.

the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center is an awesome spectacle that moved and inspired some 4.5 million visitors in its first year.

But all that eye-welling magnificence comes with a jaw-dropping price tag. The foundation that runs the memorial estimates that once the roughly $700 million project is complete, the memorial and museum will together cost $60 million a year to operate

The article helps put that cost in perspective:

By comparison, the National Park Service budgeted $8.4 million this year to operate and maintain Gettysburg National Military Park and $3.6 million for the monument that includes the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Running Arlington National Cemetery, which has more than 14,000 graves and receives 4 million visitors a year, costs $45 million annually.

Security at the site is budgeted to cost 12 million per year - that's a lot of employees touching visitor's junk. In fact, such junk inspections are likely:

The foundation plans to spend at least a fifth of its operating budget, or around $12 million per year, on private security because of terrorism fears. Visitors to the memorial plaza pass through airport-like security, and armed guards patrol the grounds.

The fountains themselves cost $4-5 million per year to operate. 2 fountains - $4 to $5 million. Per year.

But fear not, the foundation in the face of such extravagant cost overruns is seeking government subsidies:

In addition, the foundation and several elected officials have proposed that the American public pick up one-third of the operating costs.

So far, Congress has balked. A bill proposed by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, that would have had the National Park Service contribute $20 million per year ran into opposition from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who noted that the federal government had already spent $300 million on the project.

Not that the government purse is endless, but you would have thought $300 million would have tided them over for awhile. Further subsidies would have to come from elsewhere than the National Parks Budget or our national parks will be reduced to this one memorial:

A National Park Service official, William Shaddox, testified at a hearing that $20 million is more than the agency can afford, and larger than the entire annual appropriation for nearly 99 percent of the parks in its system.

The New York Memorial isn't the only memorial facing cost overruns. The Flight 93 Memorial is also becoming quite a costly monument.

A year after the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., the project remains short of its goal and is the only one of the three major tributes to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that isn't fully funded.

When the memorial was dedicated on Sept. 10, 2011, it was $10 million short of completion. A May fund-raiser in Washington and other donations, from schoolchildren to corporations, have raised $5 million, allowing construction to proceed on the second phase.

But another $5 million is needed to finish one of the signature elements: a 93-foot tower with 40 chimes representing the passengers and crew who died.

Yes the terrorist attack on 9/11 and those who died in them should not be forgotten. But, the delays, incompetence and cost overruns are getting ridiculous, and the victims and heroes of that day deserve better.

No comments: