Capuano Paints Grim Picture of Green Line Funding

The congressman wants Somerville to get behind a "short-term" plan and said, "We should strike while the governor is in office."


Rep. Michael Capuano attended the Somerville Board of Aldermen meeting Thursday night and painted a bleak picture when it comes to funding the Green Line extension into Cambridge, Somerville and Medford.

"The state has not submitted … a plan on how to fund the Green Line. They haven't submitted it because they don't have the money. People have to wake up to that fact," the congressman said.

"We've got to get realistic about this," he said, arguing that the city should push for a "short-term" solution to increasing rail access for residents. 

That solution would involve extending the Green Line to the planned Washington Street station and Union Square station and then building Commuter Rail stops in other parts of Somerville. Many Commuter Rail lines run through Somerville, but none stop in the city. Whereas the entire Green Line extension is projected to cost $1 billion, "multi-modal" Commuter Rail stops cost $30 million to $50 million each, a relatively small amount, Capuano said.

The congressman suggested that holding out for the entire Green Line extension, which would include seven stops and run through the entire city all the way into Medford, could end up with Somerville getting nothing in terms of new rail access.

Asked if it's possible the Green Line extension won't get built, Capuano said, "Yes, I think it's a very real possibility."

He indicated the hefty price tag on the whole Green Line extension makes its completion unlikely. "[T]he state doesn't have a billion dollars to do it, so being right might make us feel good, but it's not going to get people out of their cars," he said.

"To me, it's not all or nothing; something is better than nothing," he said. 

In regard to the so-called short-term solution—limiting the Green Line extension to Washington Street and Union Square and building Commuter Rail stops—Capuano said, "Within the next six months or so, I think you'll be hearing some different, more serious proposals on how to do just [that.]"

"It's not ready yet, but it's coming," he said.

Capuano also emphasized his desire to see something get built while Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, is in office.

"We have the best opportunity with this governor to get something," he said after speaking to the board. "We should strike while the governor is in office."

He warned the city it needs to be unified behind a plan that has a chance of getting done.

"The representatives of this city have differences of opinions on this matter. Until the city gets a unified opinion, we're going to end up where we are now, which is all over the ballpark," he said.

Note: This article was originally posted Dec. 9 at 5:35 a.m.

kevin thomas crowley December 09, 2011 at 02:39 PM
i agree with congressman capuano's plan. why we allow commuter trains to pass through somerville without stopping is beyond me. the full green line plan is a pipe dream. the wisdom on the street has been that it never will be built, and it never will. getting something is better than nothing. finally an elected official has voiced the truth that many other officials have ignored, even though they too reognize the state will never finance the greenline extension in our lifetime.let's get something while the getting is good. govenor patrick has long said that somerville is one of his favorite cities. well, here is his opportunity to prove it before he flies of to washington in a few years and somerville becomes a distant memory. kevin crowley
Dominick Tribone December 09, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Commuter rail simply isn't good enough. It has zero economic benefits for Somerville because it's a mode of transportation designed to get people into downtown Boston in the morning and back out in the evening; service would never be frequent enough to become a real alternative for most people (especially those who don't work downtown). Frequent service from the Green Line has the power to bring a lot more people, jobs, stores, and thus money into the city. It would be like the Red Line in Cambridge - it not only connects Cambridge to Boston, but also serves as a backbone that makes getting around Cambridge much easier. Few people would ever take a commuter rail train from Ball Square to Washington Street, but many would take the Green Line. Oh, and there's the small issue that commuter rail trains produce the most particulate emissions when starting up from a dead stop, so more stops in Somerville would not have the air quality benefits required for this project by law (as a remediation project for the big dig).
A December 09, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Unless the commuter rail was converted from diesel to electric, creating more stops would make air quality and environment worse. Diesel trains spew the most crap when accelerating from a stop. Adding rail stops might improve transportation a bit, but it would not help environmentally, and even transportation improvements pale in comparison to the green line extension.
John Roland Elliott December 09, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Let's see ... 1) The desired net effect is to improve air quality and that's done by giving people an alternative to the individual internal combustion engine. 2) Additional Commuter Rail stops might help if the diesel locomotives didn't belch hydrocarbons and particulates when the start up from a stop. Maybe we could replace the diesel locomotives with electric propulsion systems. Big bucks, but what costs are we paying for the health effects of air pollution? 3) Now with more stops, it would take the people who already use it (from Lowell, Rockport, Fitchburg and stops along the way) longer to get to Boston and some of them would switch back to driving. Rather than driving, these folks might be willing to continue to use the train if it ran more frequently so they could arrive at the hour they want to arrive instead of arriving an hour early because that's when the train gets there. On the other hand, there may not be enough demand to fill a big Commuter Rail train that runs more frequently. 4) And with more stops, there will be more startups, and even if it weren't diesel, it uses a lot of energy to get a big heavy train underway from a dead stop. The efficiency that big trains achieve is shot when they have to stop frequently, so trains really need to be smaller and lighter if they're going to stop more often. (continued in next message)
John Roland Elliott December 09, 2011 at 04:25 PM
5) Maybe we should have big express trains from outlying 'burbs (serving the folks who already use it) and milk trains from the closer bedroom communities, with shorter distances between stops and more frequent departures (serving a new population of Boston-bound commuters). 6) But to prevent delays for the big trains if they were to get caught behind a small frequently-stopping train, we'll need separate rails for the big trains and the small ones. So, let's see ... 1) big trains from the outlying areas, 2) smaller, lighter, frequently running and frequently-stopping electric trains in the closer neighborhoods, 3) separate rails for the two. Isn't that what would be the outcome of the Green Line Extension?
Mary December 09, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Smaller, lighter and frequently running? I think we used to call them buses.
John Roland Elliott December 09, 2011 at 05:32 PM
But buses 1) burn fossil fuel locally and expel their air pollution locally where the pollution is more likely to adversely affect larger populations, 2) convert the fossil fuel to motion using a local engine, which is less efficient than the large-scale mechanisms used in an electricity-generation plant in concert with an electric traction motor, 3) can't benefit from advances in power-generation technology - scrubbers, wind power, photovoltaic, ... advances which electric trains use immediately, 4) run on rubber tires over asphalt roads suffering from more friction, wasting enegry, rather than steel wheels on steel rails, 5) are susceptible to the same traffic jams that cars are, making trip times longer and less predictable than rail, and 6) contribute to road dust, the largest source of carcinogenic particulate matter we breathe. I think there are plenty of other advantages but these six come to mind with little effort. Of course, buses are still preferable to cars, but they don't compete with light rail.
Tom Wilhelm December 09, 2011 at 05:57 PM
So what have we learned from all of this, boys and girls? When the state asks you to take the hit on a project that will be hard on your town and benefit another in exchange for a project that benefits you in the future, they're LYING TO YOU...
Joe Beckmann December 09, 2011 at 06:34 PM
And what is the penalty the Conservation Law Foundation (and, now as co-litigants, the City of Somerville) might get for failing to meet the contract the state signed to build the Big Dig?? If we made it cost enough, the Green Line could be cheap.
kevin thomas crowley December 10, 2011 at 02:22 PM
i don't mean to seem fresh because a lot of earnest people have given enormous amounts of time to to this project. thank you. nonetheless, capuano has proposed we get what we can, while we can.right now we are getting nothing , and my suspicion , based on 40 years experience watching mass. politicians, is this project will not be funded for a long time, if ever.( can any body spell ikea?). i think most transportation officials and local politicians know this, but a promise, instead of reality, is and aphrodisiac to true believers of the project. i don't believe their present promises. is there no way that creative engineers can overcome the legitimate problems mentioned above? really, why get nothing, instead of something? i could care less about suburbanites spending an extra ten minutes on their commute. commuters from 30 miles away already get to boston before i can from somerville. capuano's proposal is an honest appraisal of the current situation. it deserves serious consideration. kevin crowley legitimetercome
Mary December 10, 2011 at 04:59 PM
JRE - You've done your homework.
Ron Newman December 10, 2011 at 05:05 PM
I don't see any advantage of Capuano's plan over the original proposal, and I'm surprised he's suggesting such change so late in the project planning stage.
Marjorie July 01, 2012 at 10:08 AM
Getting the Union Square Station and Green Line Extension to Union Square would be a viable solution that could enhance the Union Square economy and convenience of travel for surrounding neighborhoods. Compromise is the essence of our political system; and later, the remaining extensions could be renegotiated. Marjorie
kevin thomas crowley July 01, 2012 at 12:19 PM
tried to get the greenline yesterday on Heath street in boston. oops. they have shut down that end of the of greenline on weekends because of lack of money . you can plan and borrow all the money you want to build it, but if you don't have the money to operate it, the trains wont come.
Anne July 01, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Thank you, Dominick, for saying all the things I was saying, and so well. And A's following comment, too! As someone who lives just outbound of Gilman Square, the last thing I want to see is poor (i.e. infrequent) service that severely impacts air quality in the most damaging way possible (fine particulates) for me and a large percent of the people in Somerville.


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