Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Construction for "The Big Dig" starting in June

The local newspaper says the construction of the underground parking garage will start this summer, unless complaints cause delays. The last price I've heard is 73 million euros, more than double from the original 30 million estimate and a bit more than the 60 million quoted last year.

Today's paper had an opinion piece complaining how the Administrative Court dismissed the case (complaint) against the decision to build The Dig. The court found that the city council followed the laws and procedures of making a decision. But the court said preparing and informing the public about the decision to be made were not their problem, the complainant should go to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman exercises oversight to ensure that public authorities and officials observe the law and fulfill their du­ties. The scope of oversight includes also other parties performing public functions. The aim is to ensure good administration and the observance of constitutional and human rights.

The writer of the opinion piece claims the Ombudsman can not do anything about the case. He claims the public was not told what the city council decided in an unofficial meeting in 2002. No records were kept, but it is known three alternate plans for underground car parking in the downtown area was discussed.

In 2010 the costs had doubled, and the city council decided to cancel the plans. But only a few days after the meeting a working group was set to compare the options for parking. The public was not informed about this, and opponents thought the underground garage plans were buried and thus they didn't prepare alternate plans for the city council meeting 6 months later when the parking garage resurfaced and got approved.

The complainant also claims the public was lied about the finances. Instead of being profitable, the garage will need subsidies for the whole 30 years. Or maybe it more accurate to say it is profitable as a whole, with private businesses and large chain stores reaping the profits from the customers and the tax payer subsidizing the parking.

€73 million for 900 parking places means each costs 81000 euros. Thirty years times 365 days is about 11000 days. So each parking place should earn about 7,3 euros each day just to pay the construction costs without interests and other fees. At 2€/hr the dig would need to average 4 hours of parking in every place they have. That's 4000 cars every day, and I don't believe that is realistic. Half the lot will be empty except weekends.

I have to admit as I haven't recently paid for parking, I had no clue what the prices are at the parking meters. A quick search on the city's web page says street side parking is 1,2-2€/hr in the area of The Dig, and at parking garages about the same. Monthly fees at garages are only about a third (75€/month) of what a place should cost at the the Dig (7x30=210€).

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