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The federal government is pledging nearly $1 billion in funding for the long-awaited Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford.
In a letter to a U.S. Senate committee dated Dec. 1, the Federal Transit Administration says it intends to provide the state with $996.1 million in "New Starts" grant funds for the design and construction of the project -- about 43 percent of the nearly $2.3 billion total price tag.
"With Governor Patrick's unwavering support and a strong grant application, we convinced the FTA that extending the Green Line is among the most important transit projects in the nation," MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott said in a statement. "I believe this process has been a model for demonstrating how local, state, and federal officials can work together to achieve greatness."
The project will extend the Green Line from a relocated Lechmere Station in Cambridge along two branches — one to Union Square in Somerville and the other to College Avenue in Medford.
According to the FTA, the balance of the project cost will be paid for by state operating funds and general obligation bonds. The FTA said it reviewed the MBTA's financial plan and determined it has the "requisite financial capacity" the complete the project.
The total project cost includes the relocation of Lechmere, the construction of six new stations (five in Somerville and one in Medford), the purchase of 24 new rail cars, construction of a vehicle maintenance facility and the extension of the Somerville Community Path.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone says the commitment is a major milestone.
"Projects like the Green Line extension pay off big time for the taxpayer," Curtatone told WBUR's newscast unit. "The returns are huge for environmental sustainability, our economic goals, our job goals and our quality of life goals."
The MBTA's current project schedule predicts the first two new stations — at Union Square and Washington Street in Somerville — could be completed by the end of 2017. The remaining four stations — Gilman Square, Lowell Street, Ball Square and College Avenue — are scheduled to be completed in 2020.
The state is required to complete the project — originally slated to be finished in 2011 — as part of a lawsuit settlement to mitigate the environmental impacts of the Big Dig.
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