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Despite Federal Grant, Mass. Turnpike Realignment Project Still Short $165 Million

The Massachusetts Turnpike spans 138 miles and is a part of Interstate 90. The Massachusetts Turnpike project is still short $165 million despite a federal grant from the state earlier this month.
The Massachusetts Turnpike spans 138 miles and is a part of Interstate 90. The Massachusetts Turnpike project is still short $165 million despite a federal grant from the state earlier this month. By Santiago A. Saldivar
By Jina H. Choe and Jack R. Trapanick, Crimson Staff Writers

Though the federal government granted Massachusetts $335 million to divert the Massachusetts Turnpike earlier this month, the project is still short $165 million. Now, eyes are turning to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to close the gap.

The grant came as a boon to the I-90 Allston Multimodal Project — a plan to realign part of the Massachusetts Turnpike and build more transportation infrastructure — which has faced construction delays and was rejected for the same grant last year.

But closing the final $165 million gap on the project’s $1.9 billion price tag will be the next major hurdle for city and state officials — and might involve cutting costs on the project and reducing its scope.

As the project moves forward, it now falls to the state to come up with the remaining funding.

“MassDOT is working hard to assemble various sources of funding,” state senator William N. Browsnberger ’78 said. “They are the ones that sort through the options and I appreciate their leadership and stand ready to help if they identify a legislative need.”

A spokesperson for MassDOT did not provide details on the state’s plans to close the funding gap or confirm whether cutting costs would be on the table.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Jacquelyn Goddard wrote for MassDOT that they remain “in close coordination with the White House, U.S. DOT, the City of Boston, Harvard, Boston University and our other partners to move the project forward.”

“MassDOT has the lead on the Allston Multimodal Project and MassDOT will have more to announce in the future,” Goddard added in a follow-up statement.

Currently, the City of Boston, Harvard, and Boston University are set to contribute a combined $300 million to the project. Harvard’s contribution to the project — which will create a new neighborhood entirely on University-owned land — will total $90 million, up from an initial $58 million.

Tony D’Isidoro, president of the Allston Civic Association and a member of a task force for the project, said that state officials are not planning to ask contributors for more money and are instead floating cost-cutting measures to make up the difference.

“The thinking right now is that we can find cost savings, whether it’s various aspects of the project such as even construction,” he said.

“There will be opportunities along the way, to not only close the delta, but even to realize additional funding for some things that are important to us that we may want to do even better,” D’Isidoro added.

He said one potential cost cut could be the addition of a site for storing unused MBTA trains, which could amount to “a couple hundred million dollars.”

He added that officials appear not to intend to sacrifice any major initiatives associated with the project.

In an interview with the Crimson, City Councilor Elizabeth A. Breadon said that another possibility was postponing certain parts of the project, though she cautioned she was not a direct party to conversations around funding.

She said one part of the project could see postponement was the rail link across the Charles River which would connect Allston, Cambridge, and towns north of Boston via commuter rail.

But she called on planners to prioritize replacing the Franklin Street pedestrian bridge and the Cambridge Street Bridge and building West Station, a new commuter rail station and transit hub for the neighborhood.

“It's a huge civil engineering project, probably the biggest we’ve had since the Big Dig,” Breadon said. “So it’s really important to have it adequately funded.”

The state is currently committed to funding $1.1 billion in the form of bonds, loans, highway tolls, and revenue from the millionaire tax implemented in late 2022.

—Staff writer Jina H. Choe can be reached at jina.choe@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Jack R. Trapanick can be reached at jack.trapanick@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @jackrtrapanick.

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