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Green Line Extension moves toward key milestones

Posted by Jarret Bencks  May 22, 2013 03:42 PM

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The Green Line Extension project is edging toward two key milestones in its long term development: Selecting a contract manager and general contractor, and submitting an application for over $500 million in federal funding, officials said Wednesday.

State project officials updated the MassDOT's board of directors on the project's progress Wednesday.

Although federal funding remains up in the air, state Transportation Secretary Richard Davey has remained committed to fully funding the entire project, and continued to voice that stance Wednesday.

Funding has been set for the replacement of Lechmere Station, and the construction of new stations at Washington Street and Union Square in Somerville, Davey said. If the state loses out on a federal New Starts grant, then other projects will take a back seat in order to fund the extension of the Green Line, he said Wednesday.

"That probably means some other project doesn't get done, or gets pushed off," Davey said.

In March, the state requested proposals from three joint venture groups that had submitted letters of interest last year in overseeing the construction management and being general contractor for the project.

State officials used a computerized model that weighted the technical and cost elements of the three proposals, and are close to making a recommendation the the MassDOT board, Mary Ainsley, the state's director of design and construction for the project, said Wednesday.

Details of the the proposals and how they scored will be submitted to the MassDOT board next month, and a recommendation will be submitted in July, Ainsley said.

"Right now we're reviewing everything that's submitted to make sure it's all in line," she said.

The project will extend the Green Line about 4.5 miles from its current northbound terminal station at Lechmere in Cambridge through Somerville to College Avenue in Medford. The line will follow the rail bed of the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line, along with a spur to Somerville's Union Square.

Six new stops will be created and the current Lechmere stop replaced. Mandated through a legal settlement stemming from the environmental impace of the Big Dig project, the extension is expected to cost about $1.3 billion, and the state is hoping it can secure $557 million through the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program.

The state has been working its way through the application process since 2011, and aims to formally submit a grant application in the first half of 2014, said Andrew Brennan, the MBTA's environmental affairs director. New Starts funds major transit projects that are locally planned and implemented.

The funding pool for New Starts projects has dwindled in recent years, and it is now funded as part of the general budget, which makes it subject to sequestration, Brennan said.

Despite these issues, Brennan said the Green Line project appears to meet many of the goals set out by the FTA.

"We think we can really have a project that is investment grade for the FTA," he said.

There are four other projects in the country in similar position in the application process for New Starts grant money, Brennan said. One in Houston, one in Orlando, one in Portland, Ore., and one in Los Angeles, he said.

Preliminary work for the project on two bridges in Somerville and Medford for the project broke ground in December. New stations at Washington Street and Union Square are expected to open in 2017. The project is expected to be completed in 2019 or 2020.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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