GLX gets reprieve, still $73m short

After a three and a half hour long public meeting of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Fiscal Management and Control Board and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s board of directors, both board voted unanimously to restart work on the Green Line Extension.

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Massachusetts secretary of transportation Stephanie Pollack calls the meeting to order.

However, while the two votes are important steps forward for a project that has often seemed fated for the chopping block, especially after nearly $1 billion in cost overruns were identified last year and the FCMB has used spurious math to justify service reductions and fare increases, the extension is hardly a done deal. Essentially the vote to proceed was made contingent upon the scaled back design passing through a risk assessment and the Federal Transit Authority signing off on the cost estimate and releasing the billion dollars in federal funding.

The boards also reserved the right to cancel the project in the event that most cost-overruns appear.

Jack Wright, who has been in charge of the redesign, preseented it to the boards with a 90 percent level of confidence in the cost-estimate.

In the redesign, stations are scaled down considerably to weather shelters instead of full buildings; there will be no faregates or escalators and elevators only at Lechmere, Gilman Square, Lowell Street and College Avenue. Nor will any station have ramps, leaving Washington Street and Ball Square with limited accessibility. The maintaince facility has been reduced to 55,000 square feet from 94,000 square feet, there will be no wheel truing facility and storage space for only 44 cars. They will also keep the existing bridges and a new pedestrian bridge will be built at College Avenue.

The Medford/Somerville community path, which was originally supposed to be 10,000 feet long, was cut 3,000 feet. Instead of ending at Water Street in Cambridge it is redesigned to end at Washington Street in Somerville. The path has alse been reengineered to use less fill and fewer retaining walls.

Ultimately, the project cost was brought down to $2,288,600,000, including $700.6 million in money already spent. To pay for it, there is the $996 million in federal funding, the same amount from the state, $152 million from the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, $50 million from Somerville and $25 million from Cambridge. It does leave a gap of $73 million.

The members of the public who attended the meeting were adamant that it be done. Many of them also called for the extension to go to Route 16 in Medford and the full length of the community path be restored.

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