Metro

Would Trump’s budget blueprint kill the Green Line extension?

Probably not, but public transit advocates expresss concern for future projects

KEITH BEDFORD/GLOBE STAFF

The Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford appears safe, but public transit advocates are concerned that Trump pudget plan will make it harder to get funding for future projects.

The Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford appears to be shielded from cuts to transportation programs outlined in President Trump’s proposed budget, federal authorities said Thursday.

Amtrak’s Acela and Northeast Regional trains also appear to be spared, even as Trump’s plan would imperil cross-country train service.

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Still, public transit advocates in Boston say they worry about the future, fearing the administration will make it harder to pay for crucial projects.

Trump unveiled the broad outline of a spending plan Thursday, announcing potential cuts to many domestic programs, including Federal Transit Administration grants that cover most new public transit projects.

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The reductions would hit only projects that don’t already have full-funding grant agreements, which are approved by the transit administration and Congress. The Green Line reached that milestone when a key federal transit official sent a commitment letter for up to $1 billion to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in late 2014. Congress signed off early the next year.

Even though the federal government must approve a revised $2.3 billion budget for the Green Line extension, Steven Kulm, a spokesman for the federal Department of Transportation, confirmed Thursday that the agreement remains in place.

But Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, said supporters of transit projects that aren’t as far along should take notice of Trump’s proposal to limit the “New Starts” federal program. The program is a major source of federal money for transit expansions.

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Draisen mentioned initiatives such as South Coast Rail, a long-proposed rail extension that could bring commuter rail to New Bedford and Fall River, and other expansions.

“It means that those projects are dead in the water,” he said. “It’s virtually impossible to do a transit project without a dime of federal money.”

Trump’s budget proposed substantial cuts to Amtrak, the passenger railroad that receives significant federal funding and has been a perennial target for fiscal conservatives.

White House officials said the budget would pull federal dollars for Amtrak’s 15 long-distance train lines. That includes some lines that pass through Boston’s South Station, such as the overnight Lake Shore Limited, which runs from Boston to Chicago.

Amtrak officials said the proposed cuts could affect many of the 500 communities served by the transit agency.

“These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities, and generate connecting passengers and revenue” for other lines, said Wick Moorman, Amtrak’s chief executive officer.

The budget suggests improving the highest ridership lines, such as those that travel the Northeast Corridor, including Acela and Northeast Regional service.

Transit advocates expressed concern that the Trump plan eliminates Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, which provide money for roads and other transportation infrastructure.

Draisen said cuts to that program would particularly affect Massachusetts, because the state tends to win those grants when competing against other states.

The MBTA in 2014 secured a $20 million grant from that program to modernize Ruggles Station. MTBA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said he believed that project would not be affectedbecause T officials have already started drawing down money for the project.

Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com.
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