Thursday, January 21, 2016

T's Green Line extension to crawl ahead

By Bill Callahan
Transportation Editor

Recovering from the shock, shock of learning that the MBTA had low-balled the estimated construction cost of the Green Line extension through Somerville by around a billion dollars give or take, state officials have come up with radical design changes intended to reduce the cost of the project.

Unveiling the revised project plan at a gala ceremony held at 6 a.m. today at the Dunkin' Donuts located inside the chronically closed Government Center T station, T general manager James T. Burke expressed confidence that the public would accept a scaled-down project.

The new Green Line stations won't look like this
“As the public knows, we have had to reduce the cost of the Green Line extension project to ensure that we have the resources both to operate the system and allow T employees to retire with full pensions in their mid-forties," Burke said.

“This revised project plan will allow the extension to proceed without some of the costly and ultimately unnecessary amenities that drove up the price tag," he said.

Among what he termed the difficult decisions was choosing to drop the seven high-quality handicapped-accessible stations that had been planned: “In fact, we think that we can save significant amounts by not building stations at all.  Instead, riders can get on off wherever and whenever they want.  We expect the public to appreciate the increased flexibility of what we call the continuous-station approach."

To both save on equipment acquisition costs and facilitate boarding, the trolley cars, which will be purchased used from the transit authority in Bratislava, Slovakia, will operate without doors.  “This will make it easier for passengers to get on or off without having to wait for the train to stop," Burke said.

The revised doorless design will facilitate boarding in the
absence of stations
He predicted that the fitness benefits of running after moving trains to board will be appreciated by regular riders.  He also said that the absence of doors made heating and air-conditioning systems unnecessary, further reducing capital costs.

Asked if money could be better be saved by reforming the T's bloated and underfunded pension system, Burke said that the T could not break its promises to its employees.  When a reporter asked if it was OK for the T to break the promises contained in the settlement agreement that allowed the Big Dig to proceed, Burke said he had to go pick up Brian Joyce's dry cleaning.

The scaled-down project may be controversial.  When reporters asked Gov. Charlie Baker '79 what he thought of the revised plan, he said:  “We've got to press at both ends of the court and put bodies on the boards, and that's what I'm going to focus on the days and weeks to come.  Also no new taxes."  [That's about all I want to read about the T between now and Pesach – Ed.]

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