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MBTA: Legislative transit plan would cost $500 million in Green Line project funding

Posted by Jarret Bencks  April 3, 2013 01:42 PM

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The MBTA anticipates it would lose out on more than a half billion dollars in federal grant funding for the Green Line Extension under a transportation funding proposal unveiled by the legislative leaders Tuesday, according to an MBTA spokesman.

"The proposal released yesterday does not appear to provide funding for the MBTA's 'state of good repair,' work, meaning the Federal Transit Administration is not likely to fund any portion of the cost of the $1.3 billion project," MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email. "Because the Commonwealth is legally obligated to extend the Green Line, $1.3 billion in state funding will be necessary to move the project forward."

The state is in the process of seeking $557 million in funding for the Green Line project through New Starts, a grant program run by the Federal Transit Administration. As part of its review of applicants, the FTA considers funding commitments for the proposed project, and takes into account proposed legislation and state budgets.

While the MBTA is confident the legislature's transit proposal would jeopardize grant funding, State Senator Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville, said it was too early to know for certain.

"I don't think there's been time to process it," she said. "It's something I'm concerned about, but I can't say with certainty whether we are putting federal money at risk."

Under a legal settlement with the Conservation Law Foundation related to mitigation from the Big Dig, the state is required to extend the green line from its current northern terminal station at Lechmere in Cambridge through Somerville to College Avenue in Medford, creating a total of seven new stops.

Losing out on federal funding wouldn't jeopardize the project as a whole, but it  could mean the state would likely have to pick up the entire cost, Jehlen said.

"It could really put an enormous burden on the rest of the state," she said. "That's another 600 million the state would have to pick up and shove everything else to the bottom of the heap."

It would also make a proposed second leg of the extension -- to Route 16 in Medford -- unlikely, she said.

The transit proposal presented Tuesday by House Speaker Robert Deleo and Senate President Therese Murray has been proposed as a scaled back alternative to Gov. Deval Patrick's plan, outlined in January.

The Green Line Extension project broke ground late last year. It is expected to be completed by 2020.

Meanwhile, State House News Service reported that Patrick administration officials were warning that the plan proposed by legislative leaders would eventually force “steep” fare and toll hikes as well as force the state to pick up a larger share of the Green Line project.

Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, in a memo obtained by the News Service, warned the plan could lead to shuttered Registry of Motor Vehicles branches, MBTA fare and toll increases, and represents “another short-term band-aid” for transportation.

In the memo from Davey to Patrick on Wednesday, Davey warned the public could feel the effects if an “insufficient” revenue plan passes.

“If sufficient revenues to address this gap are not advanced, we must consider options that include weight restrictions on bridges, cessation of projects and the closure of registry branches or other services to create sufficient funding for capital investment,” Davey wrote, according to the memo obtained by the News Service, going on to say the plan reflects “an alarming lack of support for fixing our roads, bridges and trains.”

Jarret Bencks can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JarretBencks.

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