Matthew Yglesias wrote about the logic behind the new seven billion dollar remodeling of Washington Union Station and it's a bit puzzling.
First, of course, I should note that my earlier complaints about the Amtrak design were misguided on the basis of the Washington Post article. It isn't $7 billion for six new underground high speed rail tracks, it's $7 billion for no tracks, but rather widened platforms, some increased retail space, and a larger underground garage.
Reading through his article, it seems that most of the remodeling expense is due to the fact that, in order to widen the tracks before air rights development removes the potential for it, they'll need to get rid of the parking garage overhead. So far, so good, but then they decide to rebuild it, with significantly more spaces, underground and, since they're tunneling anyhow, create a few underground concourses and an "iconic" train shed.
What I'm missing is the purpose of rebuilding the garage underground and making it bigger in the process. There are outdoor parking lots within a reasonable proximity to Union Station; could they not have simply purchased one and built a parking garage with shuttle service to Union Station if retention of parking was needed? For that matter, given the costs of building sufficient underground parking in this particular location, why could they not have simply announced that they would do without their own parking and that the free market would provide whatever parking was required? At once, you achieve a bipartisan union that man previously not even dared to dream of: the support of both hipsters and Tea Partiers; the former for lack of parking and the latter for a prevention of government waste and increased reliance on the free market. If nothing else, it would have been worth it simply for the popcorn.
That said, the actual cost of the underground parking shouldn't be a major factor in the total price of the structure. Underground parking is only about $40,000 per spot, on its own that should only represent about $200 million or so. But the perceived necessity of providing underground parking was likely the lynchpin for scope creep which led to a ballooning cost. In a similar fashion, decades ago nuclear power for US Navy surface combatants often led to various other upgrades in design thanks to the capabilities, larger hulls, and higher prior cost associated with nuclear reactors. It made nothing but rational sense for a nuclear powered hull to have the most powerful radars it could mount, even if a lesser sized radar could do the same job and would be programmed for conventionally powered versions of the design. Just so, it makes nothing but rational sense to tunnel out an even larger area for underground concourses while you're already tunneling and to replace the train shed with something hideously ugly: The problem, as we appear to see, is that it results in a gross inflation of total costs and puts the program at risk.