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Does the train station redesign have to cost so much?

Does the train station redesign have to cost so much?

Explore alternatives to driving up price of Schenectady rail station by $900,000.

If you want a perfect example of why New York state is in such a giant financial mess, look no further than the reasoning behind the decision to spend $900,000 more on the design of the new Schenectady train station: To lower the cost.

Yes sir, New York government logic at its finest.

The state has already paid an architectural firm about $1.8 million to design a $14.6 million modern train station that will replace the decrepit 1970s-style eyesore currently serving as Schenectady's Amtrak station.

With a second train line being added, the new casino opening soon, a number of new hotels being built nearby, and the city's continued economic revitalization, improving rail service with an inviting new downtown train station is an essential element in the city's rebirth.

But when the bids for the new station came back in March, the lone bid was a whopping $24.9 million — about 72 percent higher than anticipated.

Maybe one could argue that the architectural firm had no control over how high the bids would come in.

But certainly, someone in control of this project with some basic knowledge of similarly designed and sized facilities, as well as the current cost of materials and labor, should have had a clue that the building they saw on paper was either designed too large for the money they wanted to spend or too elaborately to come in at the price they were projecting.

So how does the state plan to fix the situation for a second round of bidding? — by rewarding the same architectural firm with an additional $900,000 in business to come up with a new design that they hope this time will generate lower bids.

That's $900,000 that now must be diverted from the construction of the station. So for our $14.6 million the second time around, we're going to be getting almost $1 million less train station. How is that saving taxpayers money?

And what happens if the bids come in too high again? Do we throw away another million to design an even cheaper building?

Maybe it would be less expensive for taxpayers to pay for an attorney general's investigation into the huge discrepancy between the anticipated cost and the lone bid that came in.

Rather than significantly increasing the cost of the project — design costs would now be almost 19 percent of the total cost of a $14.6 million station — couldn't the design instead be modified slightly to bring down the cost without paying the architectural firm so much money to essentially redesign the entire project?

Could the solution simply be to use cheaper materials or scale down the square footage? Or present the same bid to a variety of contractors to see if someone will bid at a lower price.

Is there anyone on the Transportation Department payroll with the architectural expertise to tweak the plans for less than $900,000?

Or could the design firm be convinced to offer a discount on the redesign, seeing as it's already been paid handsomely for its work?

Only in New York would officials try to rationalize throwing more money at a project by saying it will save money.

We shouldn't be surprised by that kind of thinking. And we certainly shouldn't be happy about it.

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