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Kosciuszko Circle needs fixing, Kraft soccer stadium or not

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Replacing the traffic circle is estimated to cost $120 million to $220 million.
Replacing the traffic circle is estimated to cost $120 million to $220 million.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Gl

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I had to dust it off, but I knew it would come in handy one day: Boston 2024's Olympics plan.

Our dream to host the Summer Games may be long dead, but now Bob Kraft is talking about building a soccer stadium in Dorchester on land owned by the University of Massachusetts, where the local Olympics organizers had envisioned a $2.87 billion athletes' village.

Both Kraft and UMass seem into the idea, but where talks could break down is over who will pick up the tab to fix adjacent Kosciuszko Circle, the notoriously treacherous rotary. The bill: at least $120 million.

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That's the analysis from Boston 2024, which studied the area last year as part of its failed pursuit of host city gold.

Kraft has been on the hunt for a soccer-only venue for his New England Revolution team and is now looking at that same Columbia Point site, where the Bayside Expo Center once stood. UMass bought the property out of foreclosure in 2010 and planned to expand the UMass Boston campus there.

But to make that site a viable option, Boston 2024 concluded that Kosciuszko Circle would need to go away. The group estimated that replacing the state-owned rotary with an intersection and traffic light would cost $120 million, at the low end. Add bypass roads and the tab climbs to as much as $220 million.

Under the Boston 2024 plan, the state would have picked up the cost.

Just as Governor Charlie Baker was reluctant to weigh in on whether he backed Boston's Olympic bid, his administration is coy about its commitment to help bring a stadium to Dorchester.

"MassDOT is always willing to assist partners, like the City of Boston, to explore potential economic development initiatives, but the department has not conducted studies on this topic as it appears to be in the early stages," according to a statement from Jacque Goddard, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

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The idea of a stadium at Columbia Point has been kicking around for at least a year. I am told that during the Olympics planning, Boston 2024 looked at putting the temporary stadium next to the village. Imagine: Athletes could just walk to the opening and closing ceremonies!

The venue could then be converted to a soccer stadium afterward, but that concept got scrapped because there wasn't enough land to build both athlete housing and a stadium.

So what are the chances that Kraft, the billionaire owner of two pro sports teams, would take care of the infrastructure costs himself?

Let's take a look at what happened with Gillette Stadium. Back in the late 1990s, Kraft, who also owns the New England Patriots, wanted to replace the Foxborough stadium where his football team played.

He looked in South Boston, but the community rebuffed him. Kraft then got a sweetheart deal from Connecticut and signed an agreement to relocate the team to Hartford.

But Massachusetts wasn't ready to let go. Business leaders and politicians worked feverishly on a counteroffer. In the end, Kraft would build his own stadium, and the state would shoulder $70 million in infrastructure improvements, with the sports owner paying back the expense at a rate of $1.4 million a year.

I'm not holding my breath that Kraft will do the same in Boston. Here's why:

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He owns the land that Gillette sits on. A potential deal with UMass would likely come in the form of a long-term lease, and I can't see Kraft ponying up big bucks to fix a rotary that would enhance the value of a property he doesn't own.

The Revolution currently play at Gillette, but Kraft wants to build the team its own stadium, one that would seat about 20,000 to 25,000 soccer fans. The cost is estimated at about $200 million.

So should the state pay to fix K Circle? Of course, it should.

With the growth of UMass Boston and other projects in the pipeline, that area can't blossom without transportation improvements, from fixing K Circle to upgrading the JFK/UMass Red Line Station.

A 2011 Boston Redevelopment Authority master plan of Columbia Point highlighted the circle's constraints on development potential and called for a comprehensive traffic study, which has not been launched.

"The circle itself is not meeting today's demand, and it's absolutely not going to meet tomorrow's demand," said Richard Davey, the former CEO of Boston 2024 and a former state transportation secretary, under Deval Patrick.

"It's a question of priorities," he added. "There are so many fixes that have to be made. It's not as if K Circle is a structurally deficient bridge or a 45-year-old Red Line car."

True, the state transportation budget is already bulging with costly projects such as the Green Line extension and South Coast Rail.

But it's time for the state to fix K Circle, regardless of whether Kraft can score with a new stadium.

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Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.