STEP is a community group dedicated to improving transportation in Somerville, MA. We advocate for the Green Line extension, a more livable city, and public health issues.
“Foundation Director of Environmental Justice Rafael Mares joined Morning Edition to discuss how he believes the fight over the Green Line Extension project may not be over.”
“State to go ahead with scaled-down Green Line extension” (Boston Globe)
“State transportation officials voted Monday to move forward with a scaled-back version of the embattled Green Line extension, but they made clear that they could still cancel the project if the state runs into more trouble financing it….
‘We’ve got a way forward, and let’s take that path forward,’ said Robert Moylan, a member of the MassDOT board. ‘We are not going to be the board that will deny the project. The project will be denied on its own weight if it doesn’t come in on its own budget.'”
“The new plan, which is estimated to cost $2.3 billion, will go to the Federal Transit Administration, which also must approve the modified proposal….State transportation officials will also need to ensure the financing is realized for the new estimated project cost.”
“On paper, we have a plan for preparing and delivering it, but there are still some money problems that need to be resolved before the boards are ready to sign on the dotted lines,” Pollack told reporters following the meeting. “The boards’ clear preference is to proceed with the project if there’s a way to pay for it.”
“GLX gets crucial go-ahead vote, but with strict conditions” (Somerville Journal)
“Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said he was ‘satisfied’ with the vote and was ready to move on to the next steps. ‘There’s plenty of optimism to be had here, we’re going to keep it going,’ he said after the meeting. ‘I feel really good about it. There will be a ribbon-cutting some day,’ he added.”
“Green Line Extension Plan Inches Ahead” (Boston Patch)
“Despite slim hopes of an up or down vote Monday, the MBTA and MassDOT boards first forwarded the project to the Federal Transit Administration, awaiting its stamp of approval before formally moving ahead. The boards also voted to begin work on a new finance plan and project management system in interim. Additionally, board members made clear the project could yet be axed, should it come in above budget.”
“Board approves scaled back Green Line extension with conditions” (WCVB with video)
“Officials Vote To Take Next Step On Green Line Extension” (CBS Boston with video)
“MBTA Green Line extension project budget balloons to $2.3B” (Boston Herald)
The Green Line lives!
It was a meeting that began with passionate comments from the public and elected officials. And hours later, it ended with the right decision.
The state transportation board and the MBTA’s fiscal control board have voted unanimously to move forward with the scaled-back plan for the Green Line Extension and Community Path.
This decision is not a guarantee. There are conditions, and the project could still be canceled down the road. But for today, this is great news.
Here’s what happens next:
- The scaled-back plan needs to go to the Federal Transit Administration for review, to ensure the state doesn’t lose that $1 billion in federal funds.
- Even with the scaled-back plan, there is still a funding gap to address. Finance plans are needed.
- The MBTA needs to build a real team to run this project. They estimate this could take 18 months.
- If the boards aren’t happy with how these things are going, the Green Line could still get canceled.
If everything does work out, construction would then take 43-47 months. All previous completion dates are obsolete.
Today, the Green Line lives!
Keep reading for the text of the motion, drafted by FMCB chair Joseph Aliello, that was passed by both boards.
After months of work, today the interim Green Line team shared their final report with the two decision-making boards, outlining a plan to bring down the overall cost of the Green Line Extension. The scaled-back Green Line and Community Path are consistent with plans they’ve been presenting at recent public meetings. Download the presentation or the full report.
Here’s what survives in the new proposed plan:
- All seven Green Line stations in their previously planned locations
- Identical platform size, functionality, and frequency of service
- An unacceptable version of the Community Path (see below)
- 24 new Green Line cars
Here’s what’s different:
- The stations are greatly scaled back. Instead of buildings, we get simple platforms with modest weather shelters. They will still be ADA accessible, but there are sacrifices. Fewer elevators and stairs, no escalators. Very barebones but functional.
- The Community Path takes a much less expensive route that is at best inconvenient and at most dangerous, as part of it forces cyclists and pedestrians onto McGrath Highway! See more details.
- More simplification when it comes to the much smaller maintenance facility, bridge designs, and power and signal systems.
- Cost savings from improved construction conditions and timing.
As a result of these changes, the Green Line team estimates they can bring the cost down from around $3 billion to less than $2.3 billion (not including around $300 million of finance charges). Separately, the Boston MPO recently voted to move $152 million in federal highway funds (targeted to a later Route 16 Green Line stop) to this project. Also separately, Somerville and Cambridge pledged $75 million toward the Green Line.
So when you add it all up, the remaining funding gap is $73 million (again, not including those finance charges). In the overall scheme of things, that’s very promising.
“Warning signs ignored on Green Line extension” (Boston Globe)
This article is a must-read.
“How did the project go so wildly off the rails? A Globe review of internal e-mails, a consultant’s analysis of the process, and interviews with key players has found that officials were so eager to finish the job quickly that they relied for months on flawed budgets instead of taking the time to better update cost estimates. The MBTA and the private company chosen to manage the project failed to heed several big warnings – beginning as early as 2013 – that pointed to ballooning costs, some of which sprouted from station designs that became more elaborate and complex as time went on. Officials failed to account for rapidly increasing labor costs as the economy improved. And the T and its consultants had little experience with a contracting method for the project that was completely new to the state.”
On Monday, the state might be making the big decision on whether the Green Line Extension goes forward.
The Fiscal and Management Control Board will be devoting the first 90 minutes of its meeting to listening to public comments on the Green Line Extension and Community Path. This will be your last chance to speak directly to the people who will decide the fate of these vital projects before the Control Board votes on how to proceed.
If you haven’t spoken up already, Monday is your chance, and it may be the last! Even if you don’t speak, it’s important to have a big crowd there to show support. Bring a sign!
It’s Monday, 1pm, at 10 Park Plaza in Boston, Conference Rooms 1, 2 and 3. Please come!
Keep reading for some suggested talking points.
“Eight months after transportation officials revealed the long-awaited Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford was vaulting way, way over its budget, a major project update and a likely decision on its future are slated for Monday at a joint meeting of the boards that separately oversee the MBTA and the state’s Department of Transportation.”
“‘It became very clear to us that to have any shot of moving the Green Line forward, we’d have to make a significant contribution,’ said Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, whose city is offering $50 million. ‘We didn’t come to this decision lightly.’
On Monday consultants hired by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation are set to present redesigned, scaled-down stations, contracting changes, and other plans aimed at reducing the cost of the now-$3 billion project. The boards of MassDOT and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s fiscal control board could then vote to approve the revised plan – or to kill the project altogether – perhaps as soon as Monday.”
“Despite the fact that our cities bear no responsibility for the cost overruns that brought the GLX to this moment of crisis, we will seek to support the Commonwealth by expanding our cost-sharing role. The Green Line is that important to our communities, our region, and our state.”
“Curtatone and Rossi said without the financial commitments from their cities, they believed the extension would be canceled and the state would forfeit a near-billion dollar federal grant, as well as an estimated $700 million in ‘sunk costs’ already spent by the state.”
“Somerville, Cambridge pledge a total of $75M to the Green Line Extension” (Cambridge Chronicle)
“Residents air disappointment at final GLX meeting” (Somerville Journal)
“At the meeting, Cambridge city councilor Leland Cheung said the process has been an ‘absolute train wreck of this management,’ and instead of going after the contractors who have wasted tax payer dollars, the state has gone after residents to accept a ‘bare-bones proposal.’ According to Cheung, residents have spent countless hours thinking about the future of the area, and developers, council, and the city of Cambridge has put up resources that have been ‘thrown to the wayside.'”