Without Full Finance Plan, State Invests $44.8M In Green Line Extension

[googlemap title="Proposed Green Line Extension" url=""]

The designers for the Green Line extension have been selected.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board awarded a $44.8 million contract Wednesday to a joint venture between AECOM Technical Services and HNTB Corporation in its first meeting as a newly reconstituted board.

"The efforts you're putting forth are really going to pay dividends," said Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who hosted the board in the city's Aldermanic Chambers.

Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville) said she is "deeply appreciative" for state transportation officials, who she credited for "sticking with the Green Line project through thick and thin."

AECOM, a Los Angeles-based company, helped London with its Olympics master plan, helped with the design of the new World Trade Center in New York City and was awarded a contract to build a light rail line in Denver earlier this week, according to its website.

HNTB, based in Charlotte, N.C., has worked on rail projects linking San Francisco and Washington D.C. to their nearby airports, and worked on several highway interchange projects, according to its website.

The $1.3 billion trolley extension would create a new Lechmere Station, a series of five new trolley stations out to Medford running alongside existing commuter rail tracks, as well as a spur leading to Union Square in Somerville. The project has been long-awaited in Somerville, where officials say they deserve more public transit, having born the burden of the Interstate 93 overpass as well as the commuter rail's main maintenance facility and commuter rail tracks that bisect the city without stops.

"This project will greatly improve public transit service for some of the most densely populated municipalities of the commonwealth," said Senior Director for Design and Construction Mary Ainsley, who said it would address "long-standing transportation inequities."

However, the project has encountered resistance on Beacon Hill, where lawmakers recently gave the MBTA a $49 million bailout on top of fare increases and service cuts, the transit service needed to continue its current operations. Lawmakers have questioned the lack of a plan to pay for the project in light of a longstanding backlog in transportation system maintenance and good repair work.

The cost of annual operation and repairs of the extension is estimated at $24.8 million, according to the state's application for New Starts federal funding from earlier this year. While total cost including finance charges is $1.3 billion, the capital costs are $1.1 billion, and the state is requesting the federal government to cover half of those capital costs. The next stage in federal New Starts funding is a September 2013 submittal.

"The assumption that the federal funding is going to provide 50 percent of the 1.1 billion it's going to take to build this thing, is in my mind optimistic given the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C.," said board member Ferdinand Alvaro, continuing, "Even if we are able to get the funding we need to execute this project in full, it's going to place an incremental strain on the operating budget of the MBTA, which is already deep in financial crisis. In my mind it is imprudent to spend substantial funds, as this is… until we have a long-term solution to transportation finance."

Transportation Secretary Richard Davey acknowledged that the state does not yet know how it would fund the entire project, extending out to Route 16 in West Medford.

"There continues to be a long-term financing challenge for both the DOT and the MBTA," said Davey, continuing, "At this point we do not have, we have not identified the full budget for the entire project."

Davey said the state has "committed to financing" the first phases of bridge work, reconstructing Lechmere and building the Union Square and Washington Street stations on the Green Line Extension.

Adapting the rail tracks to fit a new trolley line will require the reconstruction of 10 bridges in Medford and Somerville, according to the state's New Starts application.

This program aired on September 13, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.


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