MBTA’s Green Line Extension is Getting Back on Track

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According to Pioneer’s MBTAanalysis.com, the MBTA’s Green Line had over 64 million recorded passenger trips in 2016, the most of any light rail transit service in the US. Extending the Green Line’s service area into Somerville and Medford would vastly improve accessibility for two densely populated cities that are underserved by rail transit.

Two key developments in the second half of 2017 have given the MBTA’s Green Line Extension (GLX) project some much needed momentum. As Pioneer previously reported, cost estimates had ballooned to over $3 billion due to a lack of due diligence in the bidding process with previous contractor White-Skanska-Kiewit, and $1 billion in federal grant money for the project appeared to be in jeopardy at the end of 2015. Now, the project appears to be back on track.

On December 21st, 2017, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that it was releasing the first $100 million installment of its Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the GLX. This is an important milestone in the process after construction had been put on hold indefinitely in 2015. Credit Governor Charlie Baker with tasking the MBTA to create a Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) which helped get costs under control, and established a clear methodology for pricing oversight of the bidding process going forward.

In a recent FTA press release, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao had high praise for the Governor, stating that, “Governor Charlie Baker’s commitment to responsibly manage taxpayer dollars in the building of this project was persuasive,” in the FTA’s decision to go ahead with funding.

This comes on the heels of a November announcement in the Boston Globe that the MBTA had awarded the winning bid to GLX Constructors, a group of several companies led by Fluor Enterprises and the Middlesex Corporation. The bid was for $1.08 billion, which is below the $1.3 billion affordability limit set by the FMCB. The MBTA issued a Notice to Proceed to GLX Constructors, coinciding with the release of federal funds on December 21st, 2017.

The development was celebrated by MBTA officials, local stakeholders, and Massachusetts lawmakers. Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone declared in an MBTA news bulletin, “After more than two years of uncertainty about the future of the project, today is the day that the Green Line Extension is officially restarted.”

The GLX project significantly extends the MBTA’s Green Line service from Lechmere Station in Cambridge to Somerville and Medford, with 4.7-miles of light rail lines, spanning seven new stations. Serving tens of thousands of riders daily, it would bring significant local economic investment, alleviate traffic congestion, and benefit the environment. Service is expected to begin in 2021.

For more analysis of the MBTA, visit MBTAanalysis.com. We have recently added the most up-to-date information available from the federal government on transit systems across the country.