Yesterday, the Somerville and Medford congressional delegations met with Governor Patrick and Secretary Cohen about the Green Line extensions and learned that the Governor has decided to apply for federal New Starts funding for the project. This means that 50% of the cost could come from the federal program, but it also means the process would take longer and that the Green Line extensions would not open until 2016.
Keep reading for State Senator Pat Jehlen’s summary of this discouraging meeting.
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Dear STEP members,
As many of you know, the Somerville and Medford delegations met yesterday with Gov. Patrick and Sec. Cohen about the Green Line extension. I am writing on behalf of the Delegation to update you on the meeting.
First, since it was the governor’s birthday, we presented him with a Green Line t-shirt provided by STEP, and pastries from the Danish Pastry Shop (near a potential Hillside stop).
We thanked the governor for providing initial funding to complete the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Green Line Extension. He introduced Steve Woeffel as the new project manager. Sec. Cohen gave us a new timeline for the project, reflecting their decision to apply for 50% federal funding through the New Starts program. This new timeline states that the project will not be completed until 2016, because federal environmental reviews are more extensive.
The delegation expressed deep frustration at the delay, despite understanding that the state’s funds are limited. We also expressed concern that the South Coast line appears to be receiving priority, and will progress more quickly, since it is not being considered for federal money, but would depend entirely on state funding. We reminded the governor and the secretary that the Green Line is a legal mandate, has many more economic and environmental benefits, and is cheaper than any other projects such as the South Coast. The cost for the Green Line is projected to be $800 million while other extension such as the South Coast Rail are higher at $1.2 billion. We reminded them that it is uncertain that, even if we pursue federal funding, we will get it.
We said that there is a possibility of a lawsuit should the SIP commitment be delayed, but we also discussed the moral obligation of the state to our community, which has been underserved and overburdened. And we said it was unfair for our transit to be delayed BECAUSE it is more worthy, and therefore eligible for federal match.
The governor asked Sec. Cohen and Steve Woeffel to figure out in what ways the federal and state EIR processes could be dovetailed and expedited. The secretary suggested additional bus service as mitigation for delays. We responded that (a) bus service has recently been reduced, (b) waiting till 2014 for added buses would not be acceptable, and (c) buses in our area should be replaced with clean energy buses. We also said that additional bus service should be considered but would not be adequate. We made it clear that the issue is not just transportation but air quality.
The governor asked Sec. Cohen to develop a response and get back to us by the end of the month. Subsequently, I spoke with Mayor Curtatone about the situation and like the delegation he has serious concerns. In fact, the Mayor wants to work with the Delegation, STEP and CLF on a strategy to deal with mitigation regarding any delays in the project. We expect to set up a meeting very shortly. W e will let you know as we learn more.
As always, should you have any questions, please contact us.