Whoa! They're moving the Sydney Opera House to Anaheim!
Oh wait, no. That's the newly approved design for the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, a.k.a. ARTIC.
On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council awarded architecture firm Parsons Brinckerhoff/HOK with the contract to design and lay the groundwork for ARTIC, a regional transportation hub that's been more than 15 years in the making. The dollar total for the job could reach $24.3 million. According to the Register, Parsons Brinckerhoff beat out other "heavy hitter" companies, such as the one owned by icon-making architecture legend Frank Gehry.
Isn't that great? An independent, underdog firm besting the glitzy name brand?
Actually, Parsons Brinckerhoff is something of the anti-underdog. Founded in 1885 (yes, it's 124 years old), PB has helmed some of the world's biggest civil engineering projects.
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This has, of course, included a few BOONDOGGLES, as the Weekly pointed out in 2003. The biggest eyebrow-raiser came from the Boston Dig project, which is to be expected given the fact that it was the most expensive highway construction project in American history. Brinckerhoff ended up paying $407 million in restitution for subcontracting screw-ups that led to a tunnel collapse and the death of a motorist.
In Orange County, the firm has made some bucks off of two of the biggest transportation money sinks in the county's history. In 2003, Parsons Brinckerhoff was awarded $9.6 for preliminary engineering of the CenterLine light rail plan (remember that thing?), a plan that died a death of a thousand cuts and a million Steven Greenhut columns. Before that, the firm oversaw the construction of Orange County's brand-new toll-road network, including the Eastern, Foothill and San Joaquin corridors. As Moxley has exhaustively chronicled, Orange County's toll roads have essentially served as cash furnaces for the state, local and federal governments and are, to this day, swimming in debt.
Of course, neither of those things were necessarily the fault of the firm. Then again: Would it matter if they were? A glance of at the California Secretary of State's website shows that the company has sunk big bucks into political campaigns all over the state. And they've been peppering Orange County races with $249 contributions to all sorts of candidates over the past decade: Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, County Supervisor Chris Norby, State Senator Lou Correa and State Senator Mimi Walters, Lou Correa and Dick Ackerman are among the OC-familiar names to get little love grants from Parsons Brinckerhoff.
That's how politics is played, and there's nothing inherently wrong with a company helping elect politicians who share their interests. You should see the amount of money heaped on candidates from local waste management companies. But when you read in the Register that Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle is "thrilled" about the latest ARTIC development, it can't hurt to know that Pringle has taken money from the firm that made that development possible.