Officials “reluctant” to drive more money into Green Line Extension

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BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – 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, in addition to 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,” 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.”

Before discussing the resolution that would make the project contingent on funding from municipalities, developers and others, members of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board and the MassDOT board said they wanted local leaders to contribute.

“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 achieving the project without an additional state expenditure would be through reducing the project’s scope or finding more cost-efficient means of accomplishing the work.

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.

Full text of GLX resolution:

“WHEREAS the Green Line Extension is a long-standing commitment under the state’s Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan which has many transportation, economic development and environmental benefits not only for Cambridge, Somerville and Medford but for the greater Boston region and economy; and

WHEREAS the MBTA has a State of Good Repair backlog in excess of $7 billion and the core MBTA system is in need of many investments to address issues of maintenance, safety, accessibility and capacity;

WHEREAS, there are many unmet transportation capital needs throughout the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS the Green Line Extension as procured and designed is not affordable or cost-effective for the MBTA given its other needs; and the existing Construction Manager/General Contractor contract documents do not provide sufficient cost reliability or risk allocation for the MBTA;

NOW THEREFORE 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, cancelling the project and investing the unspent Commonwealth share of the project funding on the core MBTA system will remain an option for both Boards.

AND FURTHER it is the unanimous sense of both the MBTA Fiscal and Management and Control Board and the Board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that the Green Line extension (GLX) project should proceed only subject to the following conditions:

* Value engineering and redesign will be undertaken to substantially reduce the cost of delivering the project while maintaining its core functionality;

* A reprocurement strategy will be developed and presented to both Boards that will ensure that a reliable cost estimate, viable cost reduction strategies and appropriate risk allocation will be incorporated into the GLX project going forward;

* New project management will be put in place both within the MBTA and for needed outside professional services contracts; and

Additional funding beyond that previously approved by the MassDOT Board for this project will need to be obtained from other sources such as the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the municipalities, landowners and developers benefitting from the project. Additional Commonwealth funding shall be limited to requirements set forth by federal requirements only.”

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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