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Federal spending on Massachusetts transportation over time

A billion dollars of federal funding for the Green Line extension might seem like a lot for a transportation project but it pales in comparison to Boston’s other big project, the Big Dig.

The Big Dig—officially the Central Artery and Tunnel project— took decades to build before it was completed in 2007. It had a final price tag of almost $15 billion (although with interest the total will be $22 billion by the time it’s paid off in 2038). Nearly half the $15 billion funding, about $7 billion, came from grants from the Federal Highway Adminstration.

The Green Line extension project, which will extend the Green Line from Lechmere Square Station in East Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville and College Avenue in Medford, has garnered about a seventh of the federal funding provided for the Big Dig.


A grant for $996 million by the Federal Transit Administration to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is expected to cover about 43 percent of the entire cost of the Green Line extension project.

The grant comes as federal and state spending on transportation in Massachusetts has increased. In 2012, President Obama signed a $105 billion transportation bill to help rebuild roads, bridges, and improve highway safety.

The bill includes funding for research and technologies, developing a high-speed rail network, and improving highways, rail lines, and growing transit networks.

Data from the overall US budget did not include details on contracts, bonds, or specific projects in that time period. But when grantees in that time period are examined, federal funds to MassDOT and MassPort stayed roughly steady while grants to MBTA—some of which helped to pay for new commuter rail trains— spiked.

Since 1980, state and federal spending on transportation in Massachusetts has steadily climbed until a dip after 2004. It wasn’t until 2011 that spending started rising again seriously. Between 2011 and 2012 spending nearly doubled. In 2013 it is projected to reach $7.5 billion, after all accounts are tallied, according to usgovernmentspending.com.


That increase is partially due to a transportation bond bill signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2013, earmarking $12.1 billion for transportation spending through 2018. That bill included $175 million for rail links between Pittsfield and New York, Worcester and Springfield, and Boston and Cape Cod. It also provided $2.2 billion for the South Coast Rail to New Bedford and Fall River, $2.5 billion for trains and buses, and $300 million for a South Station expansion.

The Green Line Extension Project was funded through the New Starts grant program and will be a part of the Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

In all, the Green Line extension will cost $2.297 billion. State funding for it will come from $996 million in bonds and $305 million in state operating funds.

State funding for the Big Dig-- $5 billion-- came from Grant Anticipation Notices, or borrowing against future federal funding allocations, and state bonds, as well as the Transportation Infrastructure Sub-fund for the Central Artery project. MassPike also provided funding from toll revenues and Massport’s funding came from its general fund.

Browse below to see how the two projects compare in funding.

Andrew Ba Tran can be reached at andrew.tran@globe.com or followed at @abtran.