Red Line Cost Overruns

The Nov. 16 article concerning the Metro Red Line project stated that Parsons-Dillingham "declined to discuss" the comments of a former employee who said that he refused to authorize construction change orders because of the lack of supporting documentation. That is not true. On the contrary, we did make an effort to respond to The Times, and the key points of our response were not included in the article.

We told The Times that in analyzing claims, it is normal to request more documentation and to seek clarifying information from the contractor. This is part of the regular process for putting together a package of information for analyzing a claim and reaching a settlement with the contractor.

Different types of claims require different supporting documentation. Without knowing which claim the statement of this former employee referred to, we were unable to describe specific actions taken.

We also pointed out that after Parsons-Dillingham was delegated responsibility for management of change orders and claims in 1991, the value of change orders on Metro Red Line has been substantially reduced.

GEORGE B. MORSCHAUSER

Construction Manager

Parsons-Dillingham, Los Angeles

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Your articles (Nov. 16-17) regarding the Metro Rail Red Line were the first time your newspaper has begun to address the real issues behind this multibillion-dollar project. It is unfortunate that the second article began with a false statement. I was not fired from my position as claims manager at Parsons-Dillingham in 1991. I was asked to be removed from the project by a single individual at the Rail Construction Corp., whose basis or justification was known only to himself. The reason that Parsons-Dillingham would not, and more importantly could not, discuss my removal is that no reason has ever been provided to me or, to my knowledge, Parsons-Dillingham. Unfortunately, project politics is often more influential than an individual's accomplishments.

MICHAEL HOFFMAN

Los Angeles

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I read with interest your articles on the Red Line. After years of experience as a construction inspector, I submit the following:

* All contractors lie, cheat, and steal. It has been this way since the beginning, and will never change. That's just the way it is.

* All plans have errors and omissions. Contractors are experts at mining these hidden gold nuggets for extra profits.

* Public works-type projects seem especially vulnerable. Owners, whether airport authorities or waste-water treatment-plant officials, micro-manage. There is always some deadline that must be met. Contractors will stall, then, when reminded about the schedule, "accelerate" and claim extra costs.

* Engineers and project managers are tassel-loafered, wine-sipping types that are no match for the aggressive superintendents. Eventually, they are worn down.

* There are fewer craftsmen left in construction. Most construction workers are not given enough time to do a good job.

* Whenever problems are discovered, the first claim is "faulty design." This is apparently impossible to dispute, since I seldom see it defended.

* Inspectors are considered pariahs non grata , either "inexperienced" or "overzealous." Neither the contractor nor the owner wants to hear about problems.

Contractors are entitled to fair pay for fair work. But owners and managers have to learn to play the game better.

DAVID T. OWENS

Whittier

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Regarding your articles about cost overruns on the Los Angeles subway: It appears that the bureaucrats, designers and construction contractors were operating by the maxim "close enough for government work."

DALE E. BENSTEAD

Los Angeles

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