Once upon a time, a Green Line extension project was proposed, with one branch traveling from Lechmere to Cambridge to Medford, and another on the Fitchburg line to Somerville. After the proposed price tag grew to $3 billion, MassDOT began a re-evaluation process in February, looking at reducing costs and reconsidering design choices. With a slew of meetings underway and more to follow, a decision on the project is expected next month, but cancelation is still on the table, according to the MassDOT, if the MBTA can’t work out a better price tag in time. Congressman Michael Capuano, a long-time supporter and advocate for the extension, joined Jim and Margery on Boston Public Radio to check in on the future of the Green Line Extension and the MBTA’s fiscal woes.

MARGERY: What does this re-evaluation mean? What’s the status?

CAPUANO: The state has been hunkered down, trying to sharpen their pencils and trying to figure out how they can cut costs, which I think is a fair and reasonable thing to do. I personally have been in contact with the state and the FTA every couple of weeks for quite awhile now. I feel confident that when everything is said and done, the project will cost less than the last estimate, closer to the original estimate, and it will get done. It will take longer, it won’t be quite as gold-plated as the original proposal, but it’ll be done, people will be serviced, and we can move on to the next big project.

Margery: What about Union Square?

CAPUANO: I think it will get added, it’ll take a little longer than people had hoped, and the station won’t be quite as nice as people had hoped, but I think when everything is said and done, all the stops that are included will be part of the final product.

Jim: When I heard that the control board said that we might have outside shelters… it seems if you’re going to do it, do it right. Don’t do it on the cheap, and I don’t mean cheap in terms of safety.

CAPUANO: I agree with you, but I also understand money is money and I’m not the one making the decision, I’m the advocate. I’ve always believed in accepting what you can get, as opposed to what you want. As long as the final product is not horrendous, and Newton has been living with these types of things, it can be done. It’s not necessarily what you want, but I’ll worry about that after we have it built. My next thing will be to make them all beautiful stations I guess, I don’t know.

Jim: I think the standard of ‘not horrendous’ is really something we should all aspire to, Congressman. One of the ways to deal with this green line extension might be to have beneficiaries; city governments, developers, those sort of people actually chipping in. Do you support that concept? Does it ever get anywhere?

CAPUANO: I support the general concept. At the same time, that’s a beginning, not an end. I think that when people get a benefit, they should be willing to pay a little bit more. The question is, how much and who pays? And for the sake of discussion, this would be the first one for a long time that I can remember, even though Somerville did the same thing on the Assembly Square stop, Brighton is doing something similar on the commuter rail stop that they’re building at New Balance… it’s been done before. I have argued, and I will continue to argue, that the concept is right, but details matter. As opposed to it being some sort of punitive thing on Somerville and Cambridge and Medford, the state should come up with a policy that says, from this point forward, all construction projects above a certain number, that do things like add sound barriers, or put an exit ramp off of route 93, or widen a street, or whatever it might be, the types of things that don’t have to be done, similar to this, but should be done, I think everybody benefits. You put an exit ramp in Andover, another one, the people of Andover, the businesses, benefit from that. Therefore, the state should come up with a policy that is firm, that is objective, and not just say well, in this project they want this much, and in the next project they want something less… it should be objective, it should be based on the cost of the project… I don’t think you can go to a community and say, we want ten percent of a $1 billion dollar project, no community could do that, but maybe ten percent is right for a $2 million dollar project. Again, I don’t know. I think the policy is right, but I think the state has to come up with a proactive, prospective policy that will apply to all such government investments.

Congressman Michael Capuano represents the Seventh Congressional District of Massachusetts. To hear his full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.