Here are some notes from the Green Line Extension Design Working Group meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at at the Argenziano School in Somerville:
PROJECT SCHEDULE UPDATE
Mary Ainsley, MBTA Director of Design and Construction, explained how the project team arrived at the recently announced “risk adjusted schedule,” which she said is a new requirement of the Federal Transit Administration.
The schedule projects the following potential completion timelines:
+ 10% probability of not exceeding September 2018
+ 50% probability of not exceeding June 2019
+ 90% probability of not exceeding July 2020
Ainsley said the team estimated 24 months for property acquisition/relocation and 55 months for final design and construction, for a total of at least 79 months (6.5 years). Then the team factored into the schedule formula potential risk factors, the most significant being the approximately 40 utility companies whose lines and equipment will have to be relocated as part of the project. “There is risk associated with that if a utility company or two or three do not relocate their lines during the time we need them to be relocated,” Ainsley said.
Bob Cone, from HDR Engineering, said the project team interviewed contractors that worked on recent bridge replacements in the Green Line corridor. “Some of those bridges took seven years, and a lot of the problems were related to utilities,” Cone said. “We’re focused on trying to get agreements with the utility companies in advance of the Design-Build procurement, which we are pushing for next year.”
Even though the revised schedule adds some 3 to 5 years to the project completion timetable, Ainsley stressed, “We’re not delaying the project. This team is going ahead with the design. Our goal is not June 2019; our goal is to be [done] even sooner than that.”
The project consultants said they continue to work toward completing the Design/Build procurement specifications by year’s end. Those would go into an RFP for prospective bidders on the work of final design and construction of the project.
The MBTA had said it intended to award the Design/Build contract by next summer.However, Ainsley said Wednesday that the new schedule assumes that the Design/Build contract cannot be awarded until the necessary property acquisitions and relocations are completed. At present, six businesses must be relocated – two in the area of the maintenance facility, two at Union Square, and two at Ball Square.
“A big lesson learned at the MBTA is we’re always out there trying to construct something on land we do not own,” Ainsley said, “and all it does is delay the project. It costs more money because we’re actually paying a contactor to stand around and wait for us to purchase the land and [do the] relocation.”
The project team said it intends to attempt to shorten the 24-month property acquisition timeline.
Richard Davey, current MBTA General Manager who will become Secretary of Transportation on Sept. 2, is creating a Green Line Steering Group to consider ways to improve the schedule. The group will include representatives from the cities of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford, MassDOT, MBTA and FTA.
Ainsley said the goal is to have the Steering Group in place in two weeks and it will meet six or seven times over 60 days. “They’re going to come up with a plan, with a couple of us, to design and construct this project sooner,” Ainsley said. “There’s phasing that could happen. There’s different ideas that maybe other people have that we’re not really seeing at this point.”
Bob Cone of HDR Engineering said that track engineering work (for both the commuter rail and Green Line) has been completed for the entire Medford branch extension and is now being conducted on the Union Square spur.
As previous studies had shown, Cone said the tracks are “fitting generally within the right-of-way,” with only “a couple of occasions where the property impact we need is an extra foot or two.”
Cone presented a 3D visualization showing revised configurations for the Green Line tracks near the Brickbottom artists complex and for a lead track for commuter rail vehicles into the Boston Engine Terminal. Cone said the changes were an attempt to satisfy issues raised by Brickbottom residents and the MBTA.
Cone said the team anticipates the need for three electrical substations to provide traction power to the Green Line – one near the maintenance facility, one at School and Avon streets in Somerville (site of an old MBTA facility that could be rebuilt) and one at Ball Square (Medford side of Broadway).
Cone said the team has completed “typical section analysis” for most of the highway bridges in accordance with all FTA and ADA requirements. Work on the rail bridges that carry the tracks over roadways is ongoing.
At College Avenue station, the project team is proposing the addition of a separate right-turn lane from College Avenue onto Boston Avenue, north of the existing water and gas lines next to the bridge. This would eliminate the need to relocate the utilities and demolish/rebuild the College Avenue bridge.
Cone said engineers are also working on designs that would avoid demolition of the Cedar Street and Walnut Street bridges in Somerville.
Cone said the project team has had two staff members working full time on the Community Path for last three months (design of the Community Path is a requirement of the Preliminary Engineering contract) and that plans were submitted to the City of Somerville two weeks ago.
Cone said one of the first issues rectified was establishing a connection from the Community Path to the Washington Street Station (in previous designs, the path crossed some 30 feet above the station). Cone said changing the angle of the tracks enabled the team to come up with a way to accommodate the path.
FALL PUBLIC MEETINGS
The following public meetings are being planned for the fall:
Annual Status Report (conducted by Mass DEP): Tuesday, Sept. 13, 1 and 5 p.m., One Winter St., Boston. Read the Annual Status Report.
Community Path Workshop – September
Maintenance Facility Meeting – September
Environmental Assessment Public Hearing – October
Right of Way, Retaining Walls, Noise-Vibration Mitigation (3 or 4 meetings) – October-November
Station Design Meetings (3 or 4) – October-November
Final MAPC/Route 16 Green Line Station Visioning Process – Wednesday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m., Medford City Hall.
The PowerPoint presentation and official minutes from the Design Working Group meeting will be posted to the project website.
– Ken Krause, MGNA