Here’s a little bit of a Boston 2024 mystery: Did the bidding group ever plan to pay to help run the MBTA if the 2024 Olympics come to town? And is that plan still alive?
Let’s back up a bit.
In the transportation section of its so-called “1.0’’ bid from last year, Boston 2024 said there would be a cost of $91 million for a line item titled “T operations budget.’’ In the version of the plans Boston 2024 released to the public, it said its own privately funded Olympics budget would pay for those costs. An operating budget refers to the costs for running a system, as opposed to capital costs for things like expansion.
Where did the $91 million number come from?
According to a spokesperson for the United States Olympic Committee, which selected Boston as the nation’s bidding city in January, the number was provided as an estimate by the USOC to all American cities bidding for the Olympics last year. It was intended as a blanket projection for the kind of operating costs hosting the Olympics could bring to a public transit system.
In a previous version of the bid, which was submitted to the USOC, the funding source for the $91 million figure read: “USOC provided.’’ (As in, the USOC had provided the estimate.) By the time Boston 2024 released the plans to the public, it had essentially said, “OK, we’ll pay for that.’’
It doesn’t seem like Boston 2024 considered the $91 million as a particularly serious or crucial part of the plan. It wasn’t included as a specific line item in the budget of the 1.0 bid, and Boston 2024 never discussed it publicly—despite polling during the T’s horrible winter that showed the public may respond better to an Olympic plan that included funding for the system. Instead, Boston 2024 often said its plans may spark publicly funded MBTA and infrastructure improvements leading up to the games.
In any event, the $91 million is not listed in the new budget Boston 2024 put out in late June.
Boston 2024 did not respond to questions about whether it still planned to put money toward MBTA operations. The group has allocated $100 million to help cover some public services if the games come to Boston, but these are likely aimed at things such as trash pickup and traffic management.
Answering other questions about differences between Boston 2024’s original 1.0 bid and its later 2.0 plan, the group has said the old bid is more or less irrelevant at this point.
“With this completed analysis, we have evolved our strategy from a proof of concept to a fact-based plan—and going forward, we are working from bid 2.0 as our foundational plan,’’ Boston 2024 COO Erin Murphy said in a statement.
Boston 2024’s new plans include calls for about $2 billion in infrastructure improvements that would be publicly financed, most—but not all—of which is already planned by the state.
It also calls for some private financing for infrastructure work more directly related to the Olympic bid. For example, it says a rail station could be privately built at Widett Circle, where Boston 2024 is planning a temporary stadium that would later become a new neighborhood.
But the budget does not account for any assistance to pay for MBTA operations.
What Boston could look like during and after the Olympics