The Somerville News
by Andrew Firestone
The design and implementation of two Green Line stops in Somerville is underway, and perhaps the city may breathe a sigh of relief. After all, with the redesign and reconstruction of a few bridges, and the laying of track, the train might be on its way.
But then again, there are rumblings of fee hikes. The MBTA says they are too cash-strapped to maintain their schedule. With around $5 billion in total debt, one can't say that isn't true. But a $161 million operating deficit isn't going to pay for itself, and they may be out of options.
The MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) share a board of directors, and are intricately connected. This includes a ruling that MassDOT lose all their federal highway money if the GLX is not built-out according to the State Implementation Plan (SIP). One of the conditions in this SIP, as dictated by the 2004 successful lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) over the State, says that the GLX must be built-out to "Medford Hillside."
The Medford Hillside neighborhood is located by Rt. 16 bordering Medford. The long-term budget approved by the Boston MPO for the GLX project includes a stop in Medford. But no plans submitted by the state do. They define the last stop on College Ave., which is on the Medford/Somerville border.
Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Somerville) is a member of the MBTA legislative caucus and said the State would try to help. "We are pushing for the state budget to include additional support for the MBTA to help close their deficit," he said. "Our goal is to do as much as we possibly can within our own budget constraints as a state to avoid the worst of the service cuts and to make any fare hike as modest as possible, knowing what we really need to do is a comprehensive, state-wide transportation finance package, which will absolutely have to include new revenues."
Sciortino, who sits on the State Committee of Transportation, says that there are many bridges in the state that are crumbling, and state infrastructure maintenance is running a billion dollar operating deficit overall.
Sciortino said that these budgetary concerns were what were lacing the state department's desire to curtail GLX build-out
"MassDOT and the State [Department of Environmental Protection] that has to approve the state commitment regulations have both said that they believe going to College Ave. fulfills their requirement to getting to the Hillside neighborhood. I disagree strongly," he said.
"Getting to Tufts is not getting to the Hillside neighborhood."
There are many dramatic turns that could be taken. The MPO could decide to drop the stop in their next long-term budget. Another milestone will be when Phase 1, the bridge reconstruction and stop building with the two Somerville stops and Lechmere station rebuilt, is completed, and the design elements may or may not have Rt. 16 included.