A remarkable turnaround for Green Line extension
Once plagued by $1b in cost overruns, project now under budget
CONFIDENCE APPEARS to be mounting at the MBTA that the nearly $2.3 billion Green Line extension project will come in under budget, allowing Somerville and Cambridge to recover the combined $75 million they donated to the initiative in 2016 and still leave money left over for other needs.
Joe Aiello, the chair of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, said on Monday at the panel’s meeting that the Green Line extension is significantly under budget right now. He urged T staff members to seek federal guidance on whether some of the left-over money could be used to help finance initial work on a proposed subway connection between the Red and Blue subway lines.
The idea that extending the Green Line from Lechmere into Somerville and Medford could come in under budget is somewhat remarkable given its tangled and tortured history. In its early stages, the price tag of the project ballooned from $2 billion to $3 billion and forced state transportation officials to redesign and revamp the project to eliminate roughly $1 billion in costs.
A T spokesman declined to comment directly on the Green Line extension’s current financial situation, but agency reports suggest the project is trending in a favorable direction with service set to begin later this year. “Overall trends for the program remain within overall program budget,” the T said in a recent report.
Aiello said he expects some of the $300 million will go to cover some unexpected contingencies, but he believes a good chunk of money will be left over at the end of the project.
Aiello said he assumes a portion of any leftover money would go to Somerville and Cambridge, which contributed $50 million and $25 million, respectively, to the project in 2016 when it was struggling to obtain financing. The terms of their donations called for their money to be returned if it wasn’t needed. Somerville has supplied $30 million so far and Cambridge has supplied $15 million.“When Somerville and Cambridge agreed to the unprecedented requirement for financial contributions to the GLX project, the financial agreement with MassDOT included a provision stating that in case the project came in under budget our two cities would have some or all of our contributions refunded,” said Meghann Ackerman, a spokeswoman for Somerville. “We are hopeful that that will be the case, but with several months of construction to come it’s too early to know for sure if what, if any, reimbursement we will get.”
A spokesman for Cambridge could not be reached for comment.