Massachusetts transportation chief open to new state money for Green Line repair facility

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BOSTON >> After MBTA officials took a hard line against any additional state investment into the Green Line Extension project, the Baker administration's transportation chief on Monday signaled her openness to the possibility of using system repair dollars for some aspects of a maintenance facility associated with the trolley extension.

Financed in part by a roughly $1 billion federal grant and once projected to cost about $2 billion in 2014, the trolley line to Somerville and Medford was put on hold last summer after cost estimates ballooned by as much as 50 percent. In December, transportation officials adopted a resolution forswearing any additional state funding, except as required by the federal government.

Developers and city governments were identified as potential funding sources for any excess expense after consultants finish their work to try to scale-down the overall cost of the project.

During discussion Monday of the state's $14.3 billion five-year transportation capital plan, MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board Chairman Joseph Aiello said a maintenance facility needed for the project should be reduced to the essentials.

"We're about to tell three communities they've got to pay up," Aiello said. He said, "I just want to make sure dollar for dollar we're down to essential elements for every dimension of the Green Line, because the last dollars people are going to pay for."

Aiello noted that municipal money not spent on the trolley project could go toward local school systems. Transportation officials are set to receive an updated project budget in May.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack interpreted Aiello's comment to mean that the maintenance facility's costs attributed to the seven-station extension would be necessary for the project to move forward. Aiello declined comment after the meeting, saying he did not have time.

The transportation capital plan invests roughly 80 percent of spending into repair projects, and Pollack said if the new maintenance facility was deemed a better home for enhancing overall maintenance of Green Line trolleys, state money could be spent on those additions.

Pollack said it's a "possibility" that the planned facility near the current Lechmere Station would work better for system-wide Green Line repair infrastructure. A consultant's December report to the control board said the vehicle maintenance facility, with room to store 80 cars, was about 11 percent of the construction cost and presented opportunities for cost savings.

"Let's be clear at what's in the GLX budget that's really for GLX and if it's not that doesn't mean we don't do it," Pollack said. Pollack said a "certain amount of maintenance" is needed for the Green Line Extension to operate, and said, "I think it's a distinction between the board investing state-of-good-repair dollars, which the control board has been 100 percent behind, and making sure that in the Green Line project we are not shifting costs from state-of-good-repair onto a project that we are then asking the community of Somerville and other communities to help pay for."

Pollack said no dollar-figure has yet been determined for communities along the path to contribute to the project.


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