MassDOT Announces Further Setback for Green Line Extension

Rafael Mares

Comedian Will Rogers once joked, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” He might have been advising the Commonwealth about the cost of inaction on the state’s much-needed public transportation projects. The Commonwealth announced yesterday that the Green Line Extension will be delayed yet again. MassDOT now is projecting that the earliest the Green Line Extension will go into service is in the Fall of 2018, but the moment the residents of Somerville and Medford have been waiting for could be as far away as 2020. That would be six years after the federally mandated deadline and fourteen years since the Big Dig was completed—a long delay considering that the extension of the Green Line was a firm commitment made to counter the air pollution from the Central Artery Project. The year 2020 happens to also be a benchmark year for the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas reductions goal (25 percent of 1990 levels), which will be hard to reach without the help of transit projects like the Green Line Extension.

Sadly, less than five years after it reaffirmed the promise, MassDOT yesterday also announced that it is seeking permission from the Department of Environmental Protection to abandon its obligation to design another highly beneficial transit project, the connector of the Red Line and Blue Line, citing its increased cost estimate. Part of the reason the costs of the Red/Blue Connector have increased, however, is the Commonwealth’s own repeated delay of this important transit project. Construction projects get more expensive over time.  Likewise, the cost of the Green Line Extension can only be expected to increase as a result of the delay.

Fortunately, the Commonwealth will be required to put in place interim offset projects or measures to achieve the same air quality benefits the Green Line Extension would have during the time period of the delay starting on December 31, 2014. We hope those projects will be located in the areas the Green Line Extension is intended to serve. Although MassDOT has known for more than a year that the Green Line Extension will be delayed, we still do not know what these projects will be. We do know that they will not be free. That points to the fact that it would be a lot cheaper to build the extension than to keep delaying it. And that’s no laughing matter, especially these days.

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