Green Line project cuts could threaten federal funding, Capuano says

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US Representative Michael E. Capuano.
US Representative Michael E. Capuano.Byun, Yoon S. Globe Staff

Congressman Michael Capuano said that if the state cuts the proposed Green Line extension too deeply it could threaten the project's nearly $1 billion in federal funding.

"Any changes to the Green Line that would jeopardize federal money are unacceptable as far as I am concerned," Capuano said in an interview Tuesday.

The Somerville Democrat was responding to comments from Joseph Aiello, chairman of the MBTA fiscal control board, who last week warned that the Green Line cutbacks will have to be "on the side of brutal."

State officials are looking at how to get the Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford back on track after costs ballooned to nearly $3 billion from about $2 billion. Besides cuts, officials are also seeking additional revenue from non-state sources. If the project is still too expensive, the state has not ruled out canceling it.


Capuano, who sits on the House transportation committee, was instrumental in securing nearly $1 billion in federal funding for the Green Line. He said the money is tied to meeting certain environmental and ridership goals.

"If you cut out a stop, it significantly changes the numbers," said Capuano.

If the project no longer met federal requirements tied to the funding, Capuano said the state might have to re-apply for the money.

"That particularly would be difficult to do," he said. "If we re-apply, you would go to the end of the line. We were in that line for a long time."

The state has not made any decisions on how it would trim the Green Line budget. The expansion, as currently envisioned, involves relocating the Lechmere Station in Cambridge and creating six new stops.

Consultants hired by the state have suggested redesigning stations and other fixtures to save up to 40 percent on construction costs and taking away a stop in Somerville's Union Square.


Capuano said he doesn't have a problem with building no-frills stations.

"I am not the one who told them they had to have Cadillac stops," he said.

Capuano, who was the Somerville mayor before he ran for Congress, said he plans to meet with state transportation secretary Stephanie Pollack this week to discuss the Green Line.

While the federal government committed money to the project in December 2014, Capuano said the state has some time to figure out what to do. The money doesn't have an expiration date, though he wouldn't advise waiting a decade.

"If they can find a way to cut a stop or two and keep the federal money, I would listen," said Capuano. "To walk away from a $1 billion of federal money is insane."

Shirley Leung can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.