Governor Patrick approves funding for Green Line extension

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill on April 17 appropriating $600 million to fund the extension of the Green Line into Somerville and the Tufts campus.

The transportation bond bill authorizes the state to float $3.5 billion in bonds for transportation projects across the state, including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Green Line extension.

The bill was passed in the state legislature largely unchanged before reaching the governor’s desk.

According to Stephen Mackey, president of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce, the bill marks a large step in the push to extend the T in Somerville.

“It’s another major milestone towards the realization of the extension. Each milestone will bring further interest in terms of development,” Mackey told the Daily.

While the funds help to ensure the project’s completion, it will not do anything to speed up the process. But the bill will act as a type of insurance in case the federal government chooses not to fund the project.

Mackey said that the bill should guarantee that the project will be finished on schedule in 2014. “I know the state will be looking to leverage federal funds,” he said.

“It’s a very competitive process, but the belief is that it will be a most competitive proposal,” Mackey said, explaining that while garnering federal funds is difficult, he believes the extension of the Green Line will be a front runner for federal funding.

Mackey also mentioned that the details of the project have not yet been finalized. “It’s premature [to talk about the project’s details]. Some of the hurdles you can’t get over until you get to it,” he said.

The project is still on the drawing board as of today. Earlier this year, those working on the project met with community members to discuss the locations and amenities of the new stations. One such meeting occurred at Sophia Gordon Hall on campus.

At the moment, several studies must be completed before the project can move forward. “They’re doing an environmental impact study and an engineering study. Only after they do the [studies] will they file the application for the federal [funding],” Mackey said.

According to Mackey, the completion of the project will deliver much-needed mass transit to Somerville, the most densely populated city in New England.

“It will [also] help develop more of an urban and commercial tax base,” he said, explaining that although there are many houses in Somerville, there are not as many businesses to offset some of the tax burden.

This project is expected to encourage more businesses to open near the new T stops, increasing tax revenues.

In addition to funding the Green Line project, the bill’s $3.5 billion will be allocated in part for improvements to the MBTA Commuter Rail’s Fairmont Line. Funds may also be invested in starting a project to connect the Red Line and the Blue Line, the only two lines that are not currently connected directly.