Massachusetts plans $17B transportation program
- Massachusetts transportation officials are planning a $17.2 billion capital projects program during the next five years, according to a State House News Service report published in the Sentinel & Enterprise. The 2019 to 2023 plan is $234 million more than one developed by the state for the years 2018 to 2022.
- The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is in line for $8 billion of the proposed amount, and the authority would use almost $985 million for track and other system upgrades, more than $415 million for bridges and tunnels and $1.2 billion for the beleaguered $2.3 billion Green Line extension that will expand light-rail transit service in the Boston area. The $9.2 billion Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) share would go toward projects like highway pavement ($928 million), highway construction ($1.4 billion) and multi-use paths ($180.6 million). The state's transportation coffers will also benefit from federal contributions – $4 billion for MassDOT and $3.6 billion for the MBTA.
- The MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board and the MassDOT board have approved the plan and officials will now hear public comment.
The Green Line light-rail project has been weighed down by a variety of issues, including potential cost overruns that caused all the original contractors to be fired. Massachusetts transportation officials now are considering changes to the Green Line extension, which has not yet started construction but is scheduled for a 2021 completion. In October 2017, the MBTA and MassDOT proposed extending the line by another mile, which would require construction of an additional station, relocation of commuter rail tracks, construction of new light-rail tracks and some retaining walls and reconstruction of two bridges. The cost is estimated at almost $805 million.
The MBTA has also committed to a six-year, $35 million spend in order to determine how the Green Line could boost future capacity, according to the Boston Globe, and one of the options is a reported $3.5 billion investment in new Green Line trolley cars that are 40 feet longer than the cars in the MBTA's fleet and can hold twice as many riders. The plan would require extensive infrastructure work to support the bigger cars, but there is no funding currently available.
The Green Line is evidence that even projects facing significant hurdles can overcome them. After original costs rose in 2015 to exceed the MBTA's budget by $1 billion, the authority fired all the lead contractors – including White-Skanska-Kiewit (WSK), HDR/Gilbane and AECOM/HNTB – and initiated a major redesign, which saved $700 million. The MBTA also hired a rail expert to take control of the project. The efforts satisfied the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), which recommitted $1 billion to the Green Line extension.
- Sentinel & Enterprise State advances $17 billion transportation capital budget
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