The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has hired a new manager to oversee the long-delayed Green Line extension, a promising sign for a $2.3 billion project that has been in limbo for nearly a year.
John Dalton, a former manager at the Chicago Transit Authority who recently oversaw a large station project for that agency as a private contractor, will receive a $280,000 in annual salary, with up to about $45,000 in bonuses and more than $57,000 in lieu of benefits.
“He brings a wealth of technical knowledge, as well as familiarity with the federal funding process and the process of engaging stakeholders,” Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s acting general manager, said at the weekly meeting of the fiscal control board that oversees the T. Dalton is “exactly what is needed to drive the Green Line extension forward,” he added.
Dalton, who will sign a five-year contract as an independent contractor, with the option to extend it, will report directly to Shortsleeve while he oversees the 4.7-mile light rail extension into Medford and Somerville.
Dalton last worked for Arcadis, a management consulting company, according to a resume provided to the Globe.
The hire appears to be a major step forward for the Green Line project, which has been in planning for years but was stalled in 2015, when the MBTA determined the plan could be nearly $1 billion over its $2 billionbudget.
The MBTA and the state Department of Transportation are again seeking approval from the Federal Transit Administration for a $1 billion grant to subsidize a scaled-down version of the project.
“One of the things that our board and the MassDOT board, as well as the FTA, have all agreed upon is that we need strong, permanent leadership,” said Joseph Aiello, chairman of the state fiscal control board. “This is an important, critical element of that.”
Rafael Mares, a vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, a nonprofit Boston group that lobbied for the extension, said Dalton’s hire bodes well for the project, even if several hurdles remain.
“I’m hoping that it will mean the FTA will approve” the $1 billion grant, he said. “Once that starts flowing, I know we’re on our way.”
Dalton’s salary also indicates that MBTA officials are following through on raising pay for key hires, something they say is essential to attracting better talent. Along with his annual salary, he will receive a $20,000 signing bonus and up to $40,000 in moving expenses, according to the Department of Transportation.
“We want to pay the team commensurate with what the market requires,” Aiello said.
Shortsleeve highlighted Dalton’s experience with overseeing “large and complex” public transportation projects, including a major signal systems project for the CTA and a $7.6 billion road and transportation project in Dubai.
Dalton worked for the CTA from 2002 to 2007 before moving to the private sector.
The Green Line project has been at a standstill for nearly a year, since MBTA managers discovered the likelihood of large cost overruns, which officials blamed on rushed work, expensive stations, and little oversight of outside consultants.
After the project was scaled back, federal officials in August said they were “committed in principle” to funding the project, but made it clear the MBTA would need a strong leadership team in place.
In other news Monday, MBTA officials outlined improvements on the Orange Line, which was in the headlines last month when riders kicked out windows to escape a smoking train at Back Bay Station.
Jeffrey Gonneville, chief operating officer, said that’s still under investigation, and the “root cause” of the train’s engine failure has not been determined.
The MBTA is buying 152 new vehicles for the Orange Line that are expected to be available by 2022, Gonneville said. The new cars will carry 40 percent more passengers.
In the meantime, officials are exploring other possible improvements. Instead of making drivers shut down their trains at the end of the line, inspect them, and then run them in the opposite direction, the MBTA has experimented with having a second driver ready to take over at the end of the line. Tests at Oak Grove Station in Malden have resulted in a 30-second reduction in times between trains.
Officials also said they have assembled a team to fast-track projects to repair and upgrade infrastructure, part of a $6.5 billion initiative over five years.Nicole Dungca can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.