Green Line extension getting close

T officials say feds are comfortable with redesign

THE $2.3 BILLION GREEN LINE EXTENSION project is not quite a go yet, but it’s getting close, MBTA officials reported to the agency’s oversight board on Thursday.

Andrew Brennan, director of energy and environment at the T, said federal officials who are being asked to provide $1 billion for the project are now comfortable with the redesign. He also said the T is in the process of recruiting the top officials to manage the project, and has a written agreement with Cambridge that calls for the city to cover $25 million of the cost. A $50 million funding arrangement with Somerville is likely to be completed in November, he said.

The Green Line extension from Lechmere into Somerville and Medford was originally slated to cost $2 billion, with the state and federal government splitting the tab. When the estimated cost of the extension ballooned to $3 billion, the T called a halt to work and redesigned the project to reduce its cost. Moving ahead now hinges on the Federal Transit Administration releasing its $1 billion, which is contingent on the agency determining the overall scope of the project hasn’t changed and the new budget is realistic.

Brennan said Federal Transit Administration officials are now comfortable with the redesign, but they have yet to run a risk analysis of the project and determine how much money the T needs to set aside in case costs escalate.

Monica Tibbits-Nutt, a member of the T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board, said she wanted to know if the T needs to find more money to move ahead with the project. State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said final cost estimates will hinge on the Federal Transit Authority’s risk assessment. She said the T is holding off on running that risk assessment until the agency has done everything possible to minimize construction risks.

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Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

For example, a major concern of federal regulators is whether the T has the management talent to pull off such a big project. To address that concern, Brennan said the agency is currently recruiting a program manager and a deputy program manager to oversee the project. Pollack said once those managers are in place the agency will ask the Federal Transit Administration to run its risk assessment. She said the assessment will be done this year.

Brennan said the T has also made progress nailing down first-of-their-kind funding agreements with Cambridge and Somerville.  The Fiscal Management and Control Board approved the agreement with Cambridge on Thursday. It calls for Cambridge to provide $5 million a year for five years starting in 2018.  Under the deal, Cambridge will get all its money back if Lechmere Station is not relocated within 10 years. Cambridge will also get a prorated refund of its money if the cost of the project comes in at less than $2.3 billion. If Cambridge misses a payment, the agreement allows the T to take the money out of the community’s non-school state aid.