Little support for boosting Green Line state aid

Transportation officials leave project cancellation on table

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

TWO MEMBERS of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors on Monday said they are “reluctant” to put more money towards the Green Line extension project and transportation officials unanimously supported a resolution that keeps project cancellation a major possibility.

This summer, transportation officials announced the estimated cost of the trolley extension through Somerville and into Medford had jumped from $2 billion to $3 billion and the MBTA estimated $742 million in “sunk costs” even if the state decides to cancel the project.

Members of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and the MassDOT Board indicated major reluctance towards chipping in more than the roughly $1 billion initially laid out by the state, on top of about $1 billion from the Federal Transit Administration.

“They’re basically saying it’s a good investment for the Commonwealth at $1 billion, but it’s not a good investment at more than that amount of Commonwealth dollars,” Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack summarized for reporters after members of both boards unanimously approved the resolution. Asked what the chances are that the trolley extension would be built, Pollack said, “I don’t want to predict.”

Those holding the purse-strings for the state said they would be reluctant to contribute additional Massachusetts taxpayer dollars for the increased project cost.

“I would be highly reluctant to invest any more money into this project,” said Robert Moylan Jr., a member of the MassDOT board.

Betsy Taylor, another member of the board, said she is “reluctant to put additional money towards the Green Line Extension.”

Members of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board and the MassDOT board said they wanted local leaders to contribute to the project.

“I keep hearing that you guys are going to put some skin in the game, and we’re looking for that,” said Russell Gittlen, a member of the MassDOT board, referring to leaders in Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford. Other means of completing the project without an additional state expenditure include reducing the project’s scope or finding more cost-efficient ways of accomplishing the work.

A resolution adopted at the meeting said “it is the unanimous sense of both the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board and the Board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that until a cost-effective, affordable version of the project has been redesigned and reprocured, canceling the project and investing the unspent Commonwealth share of the project funding on the core MBTA system will remain an option for both boards.”

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Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

In a Dec. 10 letter to Pollack, Congressman Michael Capuano of Somerville said he recognized that state officials faced difficult decisions, but urged that “any changes to the overall project should not prevent the delivery of long overdue, equitable transit options for residents living in the GLX area.”

Capuano said he was proud of the role he played securing $1 billion in federal funds for the project. “I assume you will do everything humanly possible to ensure those hard-to-get federal dollars are not ‘left on the table,’ ” Capuano wrote.

Michael Norton contributed to this report.