Mega-Projects Are Targets for Mega-Skepticism, But Are Concerns Warranted?

To substantiate their big budgets, big projects promise big results. But the inherent time, complexity, and deal-making required to complete such projects is fertile ground for incompetence and corruption; or isn't it? A new study investigates.
September 18, 2013, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"[T]he list of hectored mega-projects goes back years, all around the world: The Chunnel, The Big Dig, bullet trains in Japan and China," observes Anthony Flint. "The price tag is typically the number one concern, but so is the rationale, the usefulness, the promised economic development returns, and on to many other themes including the design, the execution, and the maintenance. There is an assumption as well that corruption works its way into all modern-day public works."

"But is that what happened?" asks Flint. In examining 30 case studies of $1 billion-plus mega-projects worldwide, a new study [PDF] by Harry Dimitriou, director of the Omega Centre at the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London, and his colleagues "found that most mega-projects were actually close to being on time and on budget."

"But the team looked well beyond the 'iron triangle' of fulfilled schedule, budget, and specifications — and indeed that is the major takeaway from the report: Big projects need to be judged for how they meet objectives over time, amid shifting societal, political, and environmental values."

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Published on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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