As a former mayor of Somerville, and now as congressman for the area, US Representative Michael Capuano has been to at least three groundbreakings for the extension of the Green Line through his city.
Monday was number four. But this time, as Capuano spoke at a ceremony for the long-delayed project, he declared, “This one’s real.”
Capuano was referring to the beginning of the three-plus-year construction to extend the light rail system 4.7 miles through Somerville and Medford, as well as to the years of false starts leading up to the groundbreaking Monday. The project almost collapsed in 2015 when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority disclosed the $2 billion construction project could cost another $1 billion . The state fired its contractors and retrenched, coming up with a simpler plan that reduced the budget to around $2.3 billion.
“It’s been a long time coming . . . for those of you who’ve been there every step of the way,” Capuano said to the crowd of the nearly 200. He was joined at Monday’s ceremony by his successor, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, US Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, and Governor Charlie Baker, who said the final construction plan was the product of a rare feat these days: political compromise. “We proved that in a very difficult project with a very bad set of options a whole bunch of people . . . found a way to come together, dramatically reduced the overall price of this project, recreated, and reimagined it in a way that delivered exactly what people had originally believed this was intended to serve,” said Baker.
MBTA general manager Luis Ramirez said the agency has done much of the ground work for the new tracks and expects to begin on the seven new stations next year. The contractor, GLX Constructors, a joint venture of several engineering and construction firms, was chosen in November for a bid of $1.08 billion, well below the maximum price the T had set for the job. The remaining expenses are for real estate purchases, new Green Line trolleys, and related work. GLX has also promised to restore features of the project that had been previously cut, such as additional elevators at stations, community paths, canopies over the stations, public art, and a vehicle maintenance facility in Somerville.
The T has previously used an unfamiliar contracting format that allowed contractors to stretch cost estimates. For this job, the agency used a different procurement process that officials said prevents GLX Constructors from letting the costs go beyond the set limits. The new line is scheduled to open December 2021.Sophia Eppolito can be reached at email@example.com.