Transportation chief agrees MBTA can't finance expansion

Asked Wednesday about the contention by some legislators this week that the MBTA can’t afford to expand the Green Line and commuter rail service to the South Coast, Transportation Secretary Richard Davey said he agreed.

But Davey said that means the state should step in to complete those projects.

“I totally agree, which is why the Commonwealth has said that it would build the Green Line Extension. The commonwealth said that it would build the South Coast rail project,” Davey said.

He said the state is helping build the Assembly Square Station on the Orange Line, building stations along the inner-city Fairmount Commuter Rail line, as well as building parking garages in Beverly and Salem.

“The commonwealth has stepped up or stepped in on a number of transit commitments,” Davey said.

Critics have argued that the MBTA should be self-sufficient because the state granted it a portion of sales tax revenue in the “forward funding” law, which went into effect in 2000.

"Our message is: no more money unless something changes," Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) said on Tuesday during debate about a bailout for the MBTA’s operating budget.

Administration critics say the MBTA is forging ahead with the major expansion projects without firm plans to pay for the work.

The Green Line Extension’s project cost estimate is $1.3 billion and Sen. Robert Hedlund this week estimated the South Coast rail project would cost $2 billion.

Residents of Somerville and Medford would benefit from new transit options under the 4.3-mile Green Line extension and Fall River and New Bedford residents and officials have long been clamoring for a rail extension that they say will provide quality of life and economic benefits to southeastern Massachusetts.

Davey also said he disagreed with a failed Senate plan that would have put the MBTA under a temporary financial control board. "I don't think we need yet another board to tell us what I think is pretty obvious, which is our entire transit network is broken from a financial standpoint. In fact our entire transportation network is broken."

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