MBTA advances Green Line extension, Mullan ‘nervous’ about funding

MBTA advances Green Line extension, Mullan ‘nervous’ about funding

MBTA officials on Monday agreed to advance a $21 million proposal to initiate the extension of the Green Line but opted against approving the full $95 million authorization sought by staff, with the state’s top transportation official saying he was “nervous” about federal funding.

MBTA board members said they wanted more information about federal funding and contingency plans.

“I’m not comfortable with ’We hope we’re going to get money from the feds,’ ” said Ferdinand Alvaro, the lone Republican on the board. “Before we start down a billion-dollar path, I think we need more information than we presently have.”

The board’s meeting agenda included a request for authority to execute a $95 million Green Line extension contract with the joint venture Gilbane Building Company/HDR Engineering Inc.

Board members all expressed support for the project, despite concerns about financing.

Transportation Secretary Jeff Mullan said he was “nervous” about federal funding because of the makeup of Congress – Republicans took control of the House last month while Democrats remain in control of the U.S. Senate.

“That’s just the reality of the moment we’re in,” Mullan said. “We need to move forward with the Green Line.”

The project is designed to extend the line from a relocated Lechmere Station in East Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville and College Avenue in Medford.

Board member Janice Loux called it an “important” project.

MBTA staff said they expected to award a contract for the project in May 2012. Officials said that if federal funding falls through, extending the project beyond its proposed five-year timeline is one option.

Alvaro also raised questions about the cost of a plan to begin implementing a new train control system that would automatically stop a train to prevent a collision.

MBTA General Manager Richard Davey said the so-called positive train control system, required by Congress to be in place by 2015, would cost between $100 million and $150 million.

We don’t have the money right now,” Davey said. “It’s part of our list of projects that are currently unfunded.”

Despite the questions, the board voted to approve $1.5 million to begin the planning process for a positive train control system. Officials suggested Congress could move the implementation date back several years to help states grappling with how to pay for the new system.

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