Cost Overruns and Public Infrastructure: The Case of Tallahassee’s Cascades Park and Trail

Release: Monday, April 29, 2019

This Policy Report uses a case study of the development of Cascades Park and Trail in Tallahassee, Florida, to explore time and cost overruns commonly associated with the construction of public infrastructure. Researchers at the DeVoe Moore Center conducted interviews, interviewed key participants, examined public news articles, and built a database to analyze contracts and change order records during park’s construction between 2010 and 2014. Authorization memoranda, field orders, supplemental agreements, donation records, and government project documents were included in the quantitative analysis to categorize the total time delays and cost overruns accumulated during construction. News articles, meeting minutes, and interviews were used to acquire a comprehensive understanding of decision-making processes, policies, and stakeholder reactions associated with the building of Cascades Park and Trail and its related projects such as the Capital City Amphitheater, the Edison Restaurant, and a pedestrian footbridge. Cascades Park and Trail’s total expenses may be $49 million, $56 million, or $65 million, depending on the benchmark used, higher than the $34 million commonly reported in the media. Cascade Park (segment 2) represents one phase of a four-segment project, and the trail complex should be considered as an integrated public amenity and development project. The Cascades Park facility construction alone experienced $8.2 million in increased costs, representing a 36 percent increase in the cost from the original contract. Franklin Boulevard experienced cost escalations equal to $3.3 million, or 55 percent over the original contract agreements. Design upgrades requested by city and county agencies during construction account for 43 percent of the increased costs during construction of Cascades Park, totaling $3.5 million. Large-scale changes in the scope of the Cascades Park project and technical challenges to the project’s contract added 693 days, doubling the project completion time over original forecasts to 1,423 days and significantly increasing daily contractor overhead fees. Cascades Park was proposed to citizens as a passive park and stormwater facility but transformed into an active park through post-design decisions by city and county leaders at higher than necessary costs. Such undisciplined spending decisions resulted in decreased trust in government from citizens and opened the doors for potential public corruption. The city, county, and intergovernmental agency should adopt 13 specific administrative and planning reforms to improve project performance, accountability, and transparency. Click here for media coverage surrounding the release of the Cascades Park and Trail policy report.

The full report can be found here: Cost Overruns and Public Infrastructure.

Key policy recommendations based on the analysis can be founder here: Policy Implications and Recommendation.

Comprehensive news coverage of this study can be found here.