T notes: Green Line ext. clears pricing hurdle

T notes: Green Line ext. clears pricing hurdle

Get ready for more traffic light coordination

MBTA OFFICIALS SAID they were relieved on Monday when they learned two of the three bidders on the Green Line extension could do the construction work within the transit agency’s affordability limit of $1.319 billion.

“Now we know we have a project we can build with the revenues we have,” said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, who added that she is now confident the state will build a Green Line extension from Lechmere into Somerville and Medford.

John Dalton, the project manager, declined to identify which bidders said they could do the work within the price limit and the one who said it couldn’t.  Three teams had been competing for the work under the names GLX Constructors, Green Line Partners, and Walsh Barletta Granite JV. All three submitted bids, but only two of them said they could do the work for less than $1.319 billion.

The project was nearly derailed two years ago when the total cost ballooned from $2 billion to $3 billion. MBTA officials redesigned the project to reduce the overall cost to $2.2 billion, secured contributions from Somerville and Cambridge, and convinced the Federal Transit Administration to reaffirm its commitment to cover $1 billion of the cost.

Officials previously had given no indication that any of the bidders couldn’t handle the construction work within the state’s budget, but their tone on Monday suggested they had been unsure. The news that two of the three bidders said they could do the work within the state’s budget brought an outpouring of praise from members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board.

“This is a really important milestone,” said Steve Poftak, one of the control board members.

Joseph Aiello, the chairman of the board, said Gov. Charlie Baker deserves credit for seeing the need to invest in the MBTA system. “This is a project that could have easily been canceled,” he said.

T to expand traffic light coordination

The MBTA, which has had success in speeding up travel by coordinating eight traffic lights at six intersections in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, is preparing to expand the test to 89 traffic lights in the same three communities.

The system uses software that allows a bus or Green Line train to notify a traffic light when the vehicle is approaching an intersection. The traffic light responds based on the conditions, and can extend the length of a green light, shorten the length of a red light, or take no action at all.

The T ran a series of tests over several days at intersections on the Green Line B, C, and E branches and an intersection in Central Square in Cambridge used by the Route 1 and CT2 buses. Results varied. On the B and E branches, priority was given to a Green Line train 350 times over a nine-day period, extending the green light time by an average of 14 seconds and reducing the red light time by an average of eight seconds. On the C branch, priority was given to a Green Line train 83 times over a five-day period, with the green light time extended an average of 10 seconds and the red light time cut an average of six seconds.

Jessica Casey, a deputy chief operating officer at the T, said there had been no complaints from the public about the traffic signal adjustments.

Casey said the next step is to roll the system out to nine additional signals on Beacon Street in Brookline, 20 additional signals on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, 10 additional signals on Huntington Avenue in Boston, and 50 additional signals on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.

The cost is $12,640 per traffic light, or a total of $1.125 million. Casey said the T needs about $450,000 to proceed with this next test, with the balance of the funds coming from existing T funds, $220,000 from Cambridge, and $50,000 from Brookline.

Casey said she hopes to roll out the system across a much wider swath of the T network in 2019. Part of that effort will revolve around installing the equipment at traffic signals that are being installed or scheduled for improvements. She said Blue Hill Avenue is one likely target, and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the Seaport District is another.

Connecting Blue, Red Lines a possibility

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

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.

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.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the MBTA currently has no plans to connected the Red and Blue Lines, but she said that could change if Amazon were to choose Suffolk Downs in East Boston as the site of its second headquarters.

Pollack said the MBTA’s five-year capital spending plan is reviewed and updated every year. She said the T is always looking at land use, and development of Suffolk Downs by Amazon or other companies could dictate changes to the capital spending plan.

  • casmatt99

    “Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the MBTA currently has no plans to connected the Red and Blue Lines, but she said that could change if Amazon were to choose Suffolk Downs in East Boston as the site of its second headquarters”

    What a terrible message to send to MBTA riders – We hear your complaints, but you aren’t important enough for us to spend money on. Amazon though, we’ll bend over backwards and do anything they want!

    • You Ain’t No Sanjaya

      Amazon might pledge money specifically for infrastructure improvement, particularly if they set up at Suffolk Downs near the Blue Line.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Is the MBTA paying to coordinate the traffic lights along those routes?

  • mem_somerville

    When this was presented in Somerville last night at the progress update, people were pleased about it. But then the T pissed everyone off by down-prioritizing the Community Path piece of the project.

    More details here: https://whna.dreamwidth.org/9633.html