Green Line project may need more bond money, Pollack says

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BOSTON – Pressing ahead with the Green Line Extension project may require fresh bonding authority from the state Legislature next year to help cover the costs, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told lawmakers Wednesday.

“As I’ve said repeatedly the option of halting the project remains on the table until or unless we can develop a fiscally responsible approach to completing the project,” Pollack told the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. “If the project is to continue, I must emphasize that the commonwealth’s contribution may well need to increase beyond the $1.2 billion that was authorized in the 2014 transportation bond bill. If that is the case, we would be seeking additional bond authorization.”

The Green Line extension through Somerville and into Medford, estimated to cost as much as $2 billion earlier this year, could end up costing as much as $3 billion based on estimates from selected contractors. Though the work that had already begun is continuing, no new work has begun since the latest estimate was made public in August.

Pollack told the committee that legislative support would be critical to preserving nearly $1 billion in federal money earmarked for the project.

Pollack has recently discussed “value sharing” talks with developers along the Green Line Extension route aimed at securing potential private aid for the project, given the likelihood that improved public transit will lead to higher property prices and rents in areas to be served by the extension.

The MassDOT Board and the T’s control board will hold a joint meeting Nov. 30 to look at the project’s history and will seek to learn why costs increased so much, and on Dec. 9 will meet again to discuss options for completing the project.

Supporters of the project have suggested that one way to cut costs would be to suspend commuter rail service along the Fitchburg and Lowell lines while the trolley tracks are laid down adjacent to the commuter lines in parts of Somerville and Medford. The Conservation Law Foundation said suspending commuter service along the affected lines could save $350 million and cut construction time in half.