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MBTA: Federal Funding for Green Line at Risk Under Recent Proposal

A $500 million transportation financing proposal released Tuesday could impact the Green Line Extension project.

A transportation financing proposal unveiled Tuesday by leaders in the state legislature likely won't improve the MBTA's finances enough to encourage federal investment in the Green Line Extension, according to the transportation authority.

The proposal would raise $500 million through gas and tobacco taxes and corporate tax changes, but it falls short of the $1.9 billion plan for transportation and education needs called for by Gov. Deval Patrick earlier in the year, according to Boston.com.

MBTA: Feds "not likely to fund" Green Line Extension under recent proposal

According to a statement regarding the Green Line Extension sent by MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, "The proposal released [Tuesday] does not appear to provide funding for the MBTA’s 'state of good repair' work, meaning the Federal Transit Administration is not likely to fund any portion of the cost of the $1.3 billion project."

The statement continues, "Because the commonwealth is legally obligated to extend the Green Line, $1.3 billion in state funding will be necessary to move the project forward. As a result, funds will have to be diverted from other worthy projects and 'state of good repair' work in order to satisfy the legal obligation."

The state has applied for funding from the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program and hopes the program will pay $557 million of the $1.3 billion Green Line Extension project. The Federal Transit Administration has said one of the major factors that might prevent the project from receiving federal funds is the poor state of the MBTA's finances.

Somerville mayor asks, "Is the number the right number?"

Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said the $500 million transportation proposal unveiled Tuesday is "consistent…with what we've been fighting for."

"I do believe the leadership in the legislature is listening," he said. "The question is, is the number the right number?"

He pointed to another proposal by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation that called for $800 million in additional transportation funding. "We need to make sure the math works," he said of the various proposals.

Curtatone said transportation funding in Massachusetts is bigger than the Green Line Extension. The state needs a transportation system that "makes us globally competitive" he said, adding, "We need to fix the problems now; we can't kick the can down the road."

In regard to Tuesday's $500 million plan, the mayor said he has "strong concerns whether this number actually solves the problem."

He said "the debate's going on every day" and Tuesday's proposal was "one step in the process."

Waiting for Patrick to respond

By Wednesday Gov. Patrick hadn't said much about the legislature's plan. WBUR reported the governor was still reviewing the proposal and might make comments Thursday.

Members of Patrick's adminstration, however, warned of budget cuts and increases to fares and tolls. Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey, the radio station reported, said the proposal could force the state to pay the full cost of the Green Line Extension.

Law foundation says proposal is inadequate

The Conservation Law Foundation, which in the 1990s pursued legal action forcing the state to complete the Green Line Extension as remediation for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, known as the Big Dig, said Tuesday's $500 million proposal wasn't nearly enough.

Rafael Mares, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, said in a statement, "No matter which way you slice the numbers, there isn't enough there to achieve the most basic improvements needed to ensure the safety and reliability of our public transit systems, roads and bridges."

He continued, "The funding laid out in the legislature's plan is not only grossly inadequate to achieve the goals it puts forward, but it locks in another five years of underfunding for transportation. Crumbling roads and bridges, broken down trains and sporadic service will continue to be the norm under this plan."

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