Somerville, Cambridge off hook for $75M in Green Line Extension payments

The Green Line Extension is now expected to come in under budget, MBTA officials said. (State House News Service)
The Green Line Extension is now expected to come in under budget, MBTA officials said. (State House News Service)

MBTA overseers voted Wednesday to reimburse Somerville and Cambridge all of the $75 million they collectively pledged toward the Green Line Extension, and voiced confidence that the once-imperiled project is out of the woods despite delays to the opening timeline.

Following the 7-0 vote by the MBTA Board of Directors, the T will cancel $30 million in additional payments the cities were scheduled to make, return more than $17 million in unused funds from the municipalities, and use state dollars to repay Cambridge and Somerville for the roughly $28 million the agency already spent from their earlier contributions.

MBTA officials anticipate that the long-awaited $2.3 billion megaproject, which will expand the Green Line from its Lechmere Station terminus into East Cambridge, Somerville and Medford, will come in under budget.

GLX Project Manager John Dalton said Wednesday that the project is 85 percent complete. About 95% of new tracks have been installed, a vehicle maintenance facility is ready, and service testing is underway, he said.

"Based on where we stand in general on the project, all of the project's primary risk exposures have been either avoided, transferred, mitigated or absorbed," Dalton said. "We are well out of what I'll consider the risk window for high-cost risks to the project."

The agency previously delayed the start of service on both Green Line Extension branches, with the Union Square stop postponed until March and the larger, second branch pushed until May.

Still, the rail line extension is close to reality after an arduous history. In 2015, the former Fiscal and Management Control Board paused construction due to a cost overrun projected to swell the bottom line to about $3 billion.

A year later, Somerville agreed to pay $50 million and Cambridge agreed to pay $25 million to float the project, which MassDOT Executive Director of Planning David Mohler on Wednesday called "the first time any city has made a significant contribution to a transit project in Massachusetts."



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