Is Places 29 A Boondoggle?

By. Neil Williamson

On Sunday (12/14) Daily Progress Reporter Brian McNeill had an extensive front page story on Albemarle County’s Places 29 planning project

I was quoted in the article saying,

“This community doesn’t want to build roads. It wants to study roads,” said Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum. “If I sound frustrated, I am. There are real traffic issues that we’re facing.”

Williamson added that he views Places29 as a “half-billion-dollar boondoggle that, at best, will maintain the current level of traffic frustration and create a 30-year work zone on our most productive commercial corridor.”

After reading this quote with my coffee on Sunday morning, I wondered if the term boondoggle was too harsh for the Places29 project.  A quick check of Wikipedia produced this definition of boondoggle:

The term boondoggle, in the sense of a project that wastes time and money . . .

If also refers to government or corporate project involving large numbers of people and usually heavy expenditure; at some point, the key operators have realized that the project is never going to work, but are reluctant to bring this to the attention of their superiors. Generally there is an aspect of “going through the motions” – for example, continuing research and development – as long as funds are available to keep paying the researchers’ and executives’ salaries. The situation can be allowed to continue for what seem like unreasonably long periods, as senior management are often reluctant to admit that they allowed a failed project to go on for so long. In many cases, the actual device itself may eventually work, but not well enough to ever recoup its development costs.

A distinguishing aspect of a boondoggle, as opposed to a project that simply fails, is the eventual realization by its operators that it is never going to work, long before it is finally shut down.

My use of the term boondoggle, according to this definition, could not have been more accurate.  The Places 29 plan is clearly going through the motions as long as funds are available to keep paying the researchers’ and executives’ salaries.  Further, the numbers I have seen, Places 29 will only maintain the level of traffic we have today or as stated in the definition “the actual device may work, but not well enough to ever recoup its development costs”. 

Yes Virginia, Places 29 is a Boondoggle.


4 responses

  1. […] County’s Land Use/Transportation planning boondoggle named Places 29  might actually complete at some point in […]

  2. […] now the half billion dollar boondogle known as Places 29 features conflicting consultants visions and at least one out-of-town […]

  3. […] Here are some of the lessons we have learned in the building of this boondoggle.  […]

  4. […] While there are projects within the plan that are doable, the Free Enterprise Forum believes (as we first said in 2008) Places29 is a bloated boondoggle. […]

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