Letter: BRA exaggerated streetcar extension costs

March 29, 2013
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According to the March 15 Gazette, BRA transportation manager James Fitzgerald would have Gazette readers believe that restoration of streetcar service along S. Huntington Avenue from Heath Street to Perkins Street, a distance of seven-tenths of a mile, “would take around a decade and a billion dollars to complete.” (“S. Huntington ‘vision’ draft presented,” March 15.) This claim is preposterous.

Let’s put Mr. Fitzgerald’s remarks into proper context. First, the MBTA, in 2002-03, spent enough of the then available $10 million to prepare the final preliminary engineering plans, including layout of the tracks, new station platforms, etc., for restoring the entire route from Heath Street to Forest Hills.  No doubt these plans, already paid for, are still ready for use.

Second, the MBTA’s 2003 Expanded Environmental Notification Form estimated that the entire cost of all of the design and construction work necessary for the T to restore streetcar service all the way from Heath Street to Forest Hills, would be approximately $58 million, a rate of $2.6 million per tenth-of-a-mile. This means that the cost for the seven-tenths of a mile from Heath Street to Perkins Street, in 2003 dollars, would be about $18.2 million. Even if one assumes for the sake of argument that inflation would increase the cost from $18.2 million to $25 million in today’s dollars, the BRA’s $1 billion cost estimate is off by a factor of 40.

I trust that in the future Mr. Fitzgerald and the BRA will do their homework before making outlandish claims on this or any other transportation issue.

Kevin Moloney

Jamaica Plain

Editor’s Note: The writer is on the board of directors of the Arborway Committee, which proposed the Green Line extension.