GLX rescuer Dalton set to leave MBTA at end of month

Fiandaca hails his work; no one talking about his next job

JOHN DALTON, the manager who got the Green Line extension into Medford and Somerville built, is leaving the MBTA at the end of the month for a new job.

A T spokesman on Friday confirmed Dalton is leaving but provided no information on where he is headed.

Dalton’s departure is a major loss for the MBTA. He brought a steady hand to a project that before he arrived was spiraling out of control and he got the project built despite challenging terrain and supply chain issues caused by COVID.

His contract with the MBTA – a $299,000 base salary plus an “annual success bonus” of 16 percent – made him the highest-paid worker at the transit authority, making slightly more money than even the general manager.

Gina Fiandaca, the new secretary of transportation under Gov. Maura Healey, hailed Dalton’s work.

“John Dalton has been an exceptional leader, coming to the MBTA at a time when the Green Line extension project was on the brink of not being built,” she said in a statement. “John led the team in making key decisions allowing the project to pivot, shaving $1 billion from the total cost, bringing a new focus on the essential project elements, assembling a group of experienced engineers and capital delivery managers, and giving the project renewed momentum. On behalf of MassDOT and the MBTA, I’d like to express my deep appreciation to John for delivering this $2.3 billion project which has been transformational.”

Dalton was recruited from Chicago at a time when there was great skepticism about the T’s ability to complete large projects. The cost of the Green Line extension had ballooned from $2 billion to more than $3 billion and there was talk of just canceling the project and returning $1 billion in funding to the federal government.

But T officials, with the help of consultants, pared the cost of the project back to $2.3 billion. Somerville and Cambridge helped with the financing by chipping in a total of $70 million. And Dalton was brought in as a contractor to oversee a team to oversee the project.

Dalton and his team steadied the project and guided it to completion with relatively few hiccups, although there have been a number of missed deadlines.

Just prior to the opening of the Medford branch in December, Dalton took reporters on a ride and talked about the many challenges the project faced, including a buried rail car under tons of dirt near what is now the East Somerville Station on the line from Lechmere to Tufts University in Medford.

During the ride, Dalton said safety incidents during construction were minor and minimal and “financially the project is in good shape.”

The T didn’t end up needing the money from Cambridge and Somerville, but Dalton in December said it was too early to say whether money would actually be left over once odds and ends on the project are completed and the T settles up with its contractor.

Many believe the team approach the T used in overseeing construction of the Green Line extension is a template for future major projects. The South Coast Rail project to Fall River and New Bedford has used a similar approach.

Many had speculated what Dalton’s next assignment at the MBTA would be – his specialty was large, complex projects – but now he is off to something new.