It’s only the law

I’m always annoyed at the reporting on the Green Line Extension, such as:

After officials revealed last year that the total cost of the long-awaited project could be $1 billion more than previously estimated, the new board overseeing the MBTA said it would choose to proceed with the extension only if costs dramatically dropped. State officials will decide on May 9 whether to go forward with the project, which has already won approval for nearly $1 billion in federal funds and was originally projected to cost about $2 billion.

The thing is, the state entered into a legally binding agreement to build the Green Line Extension back in 1990 (think about that, it’s 26 years later and the project hasn’t even started). So, when the state says they might decide to cancel the project, they’re really saying they might break a legally binding agreement. You get the same thing at the official site:

On December 14, 2015, at a joint meeting, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and the Board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation jointly and unanimously adopted a resolution that laid out the Boards’ position on additional funding for the Green Line Extension project. The resolution incorporated key lessons learned from a recent ‘look-back’ analysis. In their resolution, the Boards recognized that, “the Green Line Extension is a long-standing commitment under the state’s Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan which has many transportation, economic development and environmental benefits not only for Cambridge, Somerville and Medford but for the greater Boston region and economy.” But, the resolution finds, “the Green Line Extension as procured and designed is not affordable or cost-effective for the MBTA given its other needs; and the existing Construction Manager/General Contractor contract documents do not provide sufficient cost reliability or risk allocation for the MBTA.”

The resolution states that “until a cost-effective, affordable version of the project has been redesigned and re-procured, cancelling the project and investing the unspent Commonwealth share of the project funding on the core MBTA system will remain an option for both Boards.”

It isn’t a “long-standing” commitment, it’s a legal commitment. Every time one of these state officials says the project might not go forward, they should be asked how this is possible given that it’s a legal commitment. Do they think it’s optional to obey the law?

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