Politicians support up to $21B Boston North-South Rail, while critics recall Big Dig program failures
- During the Nov. 19 meeting of the Massachusetts DOT Board of Directors, two iconic state political names joined forces to express their support for the $12 billion to $21 billion North-South Rail Link, a controversial plan to build a tunnel under Boston in order to better connect the city’s suburbs, The Boston Globe reported.
- William Weld, former Republican governor of Massachusetts but now a Libertarian, and Michael Dukakis, also a former Massachusetts governor and the 1988 Democratic nominee for president of the United States, agreed with North-South proponents that the new system would give workers better access to employers located on opposite ends of the city from where they live, create the ability for the entire Boston commuter rail system to add more service, make regional travel easier, reduce the need for train storage space and allow the extension of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor into Maine.
- Dukakis said MassDOT's hesitation to move forward could be a “hangover" from the Big Dig, a $15 billion highway rerouting and tunnel project in Boston that took about a decade longer than planned and was wildly over budget. Aside from the cost, which some plan advocates said used inflated numbers based on 2028 projections, critics maintain that the logistics of the North-South Link would be formidable and that the money should be spent on other system needs.
A $1.5 million Arup study commissioned by MassDOT determined the current estimated cost range, which is about twice what a Harvard Kennedy School study projected the price tag would be. Some North-Link supporters accused the state of intentionally exaggerating the numbers in order to scare the public and turn the tide of opinion against the project.
One doesn’t have to look as far back as the 1991-2007 Big Dig project to find cost overruns and schedule delays in the world of Boston transportation projects.
In 2015, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority fired the joint venture of White-Skanska-Kiewit after projected costs for the Green Line light-rail extension in Boston blew about $1 billion past the budget.
The MBTA went back to the drawing board, redesigned certain system elements in order to reduce costs and put the project back out to bid. The Fluor-led joint venture of GLX Constructors won the $1 billion contract, well under the MBTA's $1.3 billion budget. The redesign ensured continued support from the Federal Transit Administration, which made good on its commitment to award the Green Line a $1 billion grant.
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