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Key federal official supports redesigned Green Line project

A key federal transportation official expressed support for the MBTA’s efforts to redesign the troubled Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford.
A key federal transportation official expressed support for the MBTA’s efforts to redesign the troubled Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford. Aram Boghosian for the Boston Globe

A key federal transportation official expressed support for the MBTA’s efforts to redesign the troubled Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford, saying in a letter that the scaled-down plans appear to fit the scope of the federal funding agreement that would pay for nearly $1 billion of the project, and that the agency should move forward.

The early support for the redesigned project is good news for the project, which has been on hold for nearly a year after state officials revealed it was on track to be overbudget by up to $1 billion.

But Mary Beth Mello, the Federal Transit Administration’s regional administrator, also said that the federal government needs to thoroughly evaluate the details of the plan before it can give the official green light.

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The FTA “must have every confidence the MBTA can deliver the entire scope of the redesigned GLX within the specified budget and schedule,” Mello wrote in the May 20 letter to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.

After MBTA officials revealed the long-promised project could be off by nearly $1 billion from its $2 billion budget, the agency’s board hired consultants to cut costs on the project.

The MBTA’s fiscal control board and the state transportation board voted last week to move forward with a redesigned, $2.3 billion project, but the extension still needs to clear several hurdles before it finally gets built. One of those obstacles is getting the federal government to again approve nearly $1 billion in federal money that had already been pledged to the original version of the project.

In Mello’s letter, she ensured state transportation officials that the agency’s “preliminary view” is that the new project fits the criteria for the grant that was officially announced in January 2015, though the agency still needed to conduct a comprehensive review.

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“We will work with the MBTA and your staff to identify the information FTA requires and lay out a schedule for the necessary analyses,” she wrote. “Please be assured, however, the MBTA can continue to proceed to meet critical project milestones with its own resources.”


Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.