Overpass project threatened by funding loss

Construction of the Casey Overpass replacement could be jeopardized if national transportation funding is not extended this year.

The planning study and preliminary design are already funded and would continue regardless, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) spokesperson Michael Verseckes said. Construction currently is scheduled to begin in 2013.

“While the Casey Overpass project is funded with solely state dollars, it could be jeopardized if the Federal Highway Trust Fund is allowed to be depleted,” Verseckes told the Gazette.

The Casey Overpass project’s funds come from the Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP), which is funded with both federal and state dollars. The federal funds come from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which exists because of the Surface Transportation Bill.

The Surface Transportation Bill expired in September 2009 and has been continued with a series of stopgap extensions.

President Barack Obama’s proposed 2012 budget calls for a six-year, $556 billion surface transportation reauthorization that would increase the funds available to the Federal Highway Trust Fund by $53 billion over 2010 levels.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is currently funded by the federal gas tax. Increasing that tax could be one way to pay for the increase, though it will likely be an unpopular suggestion in Congress.

“Reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Bill is necessary to sustain the Federal Highway Trust Fund…If the federal portion of the ABP were to diminish, the Casey Overpass project would be competing with other projects” for money from a smaller state source, Verseckes said, which could delay or even halt construction of the replacement.

At previous project working advisory group (WAG) meetings, state and city officials on the design team assured community members that the overpass replacement project was not in competition for funding.

Officials also said there is no specific budget for the Casey project, but said it would likely cost between $28 million and no more than $53 million. They emphasized that they can’t be more specific until they have a final design plan.

The current Casey project schedule includes: coming up with a replacement concept by October; designing the plan from then into 2013; then demolishing the overpass and building the replacement by June 2016.

Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick both called on Congress to extend the Surface Reauthorization Act late last month.

“I join the President in calling upon Congress to move forward with this reauthorization so that we can keep Massachusetts workers on the job, and continue to support our infrastructure needs,” Patrick said in a press release.

The Monsignor William J. Casey Overpass is the elevated section of Route 203 over Washington and South streets, next to the Forest Hills MBTA Station.


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