Capuano on Green Line: 'Take What We Can'
With funding for the project still a murky issue, the congressman wants the state to build as much as it can with the money it has now.
Rep. Michael Capuano, speaking to the Somerville Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning, said, "I really need the people of Somerville to wake up" when it comes to the Green Line extension.
"Does anyone here think the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has an extra billion dollars [lying around] in the bottom drawer?"
Capuano, who sits on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in Congress, said, "How much money do they have [to build the extension]? We don't know yet."
He said Somerville should see how much money the state currently has for the project, "grab as much of that as we can and build as much of the Green Line as we can."
Where's the money?
Capuano was reiterating a position he presented to the Somerville Board of Aldermen in December and then explained further in an op-ed piece sent to Somerville Patch and other Somerville media outlets.
The state should spend whatever money it has extending the Green Line as far into Somerville as possible, and it should do so now, he said.
Tom Bent, who serves as Somerville's representative on the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, which makes decisions about federal transportation priorities in the area, said the organization has programmed about $490 million for the project into the Transportation Improvement Program, known as the TIP.
Capuano cautioned, "The TIP says you have this money, kind of." It's more of a promise than money in the bank, he said.
The Green Line extension is projected to cost about $1 billion, but "if they have $200 million, and you say they have to build the whole thing, they're going to walk away," Capuano said.
Get it done while Patrick is in office
At the current rate of construction, by the time Gov. Deval Patrick leaves office, the state will have fixed two bridges, one of which is in Medford, Capuano said, referring to work on the Medford Street rail bridge and the Harvard Street rail bridge in Medford.
"Don't look me in the face and tell me that's part of the Green Line," he said.
Patrick leaves office at the beginning of 2015 and the new governor could have different priorities, the congressman said. "Anyone here tell me who the next governor's going to be? Because I don't know."
He said it will be easier to convince future administrations to continue building the Green Line extension if part of it is already built.
"Take what we can, one step at a time," Capuano said. He added, "I'm interested in getting the damn thing built and actually servicing our people."
What about the legal mandate to build the Green Line extension?
The state is legally required to build the Green Line extension as part of a legal agreement designed to mitigate the impact of the Central Artery project, known as the Big Dig.
"The court order in my opinion has never had any teeth," Capuano said. That's in part because the penalty for Massachusetts, if it doesn't build the project, is a cut-off of federal transportation dollars to the state. That's not something anyone in the state wants.
Curtatone on same page
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who attended the Chamber of Commerce talk, said he was on the same page as the congressman when it comes to the Green Line extension.
"We're all saying, we have to get as far down the line as possible," the mayor said. "Get into Union Square as soon as possible."
"I agree … we want to service the greatest amount of people as possible," he said.
The mayor emphasized, "The Green Line will happen," and he said the first three stops—Lechmere, Washington Street and Union Square—are scheduled to be done by 2016.