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Green Line delay

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The Big Dig took 25 years to complete, from initial planning to final wind-down. It looks like one mass transit expansion that was tied to the highway project’s environmental permits will best that mark by at least a few years.

The MBTA announced yesterday that it’s officially resetting the target date for Green Line service to Somerville and Medford, again. The Green Line extension was part of a raft of transit projects that state and T officials committed to in 1991, when the Big Dig broke ground. In 2007, the T reaffirmed its commitment to the project, settling a lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation and agreeing to an expansion date of 2014. Last year, the T said it might not be able to get light rail cars rolling along the new line until 2015.

Now, that timetable has been pushed back again, to sometime between 2018 and 2020.

In a statement, the T attributed the delays to a recent “cost and schedule” analysis. But in an April forum sponsored by A Better City, outgoing MassDOT CEO Jeffrey Mullan said that he expected that any application for federal matching funds for the $950 million Green Line project would be denied. Mullan said he expected the T’s troubled budget, which is projected to accumulate budget deficits of $900 million between fiscal 2013 and 2016, to be a nonstarter with federal officials, who won’t fund transportation projects that local transit agencies can’t afford to operate.

“Until we get a handle on our operating expenses,” Mullan said, the Federal Transit Administration “will not look favorably on expansion. We’re kidding ourselves if don’t think operating expenses will affect [New Starts funding].”

Conservation Law Foundation staff attorney Rafael Mares said that by delaying the Green Line far past its stated 2014 completion date, the state is opening itself up to a citizens’ lawsuit under the Clean Air Act, and to a possible loss of federal highway funds. He also said that in asking the state Department of Environmental Protection to approve the shelving of the Red Line-Blue Line Connector, the T is asking the state for relief that only the federal Environmental Protection Agency can grant. 

                                                                                                                                                                --PAUL MCMORROW


BEACON HILL

State Treasurer Steve Grossman is moving quickly, the Globe reports, to prevent a handful of deep-pocketed players from gaming one of the state lottery’s games following the paper’s story on Sunday that exposed the practice.

Raynham Dog Track owner George Carney says after several meetings with members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe about their interest in his track for a casino, he has had no contact in about six weeks and says they have moved on to other possible sites in southeastern Massachusetts, including back in Middleborough where the tribe already spurned one deal. House Speaker Robert DeLeo tells Berkshire Eagle reporters and editors that casino gambling will be on the fast track in September, but he doesn’t know whether it will pass.

Former state auditor Joe DeNucci admits to a conflict of interest over his decision to hire his elderly cousin for a fraud examiner position.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s new federal PAC reports a good first quarter.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Newton reaches agreements with all 10 of its municipal unions which will save the city $6 million over the next three years.

Central Falls, Rhode Island, declares bankruptcy, WBUR reports. Here is the Globe account.

After a judge rules Salem overtaxed the Demoulas supermarket chain and a refund is owed, Town Manager Keith Hickey says layoffs are likely this fall, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Time examines what the US debt deal means for the global economy. The Globe looks at what it will mean for the Massachusetts economy (it’s nothing good). The National Review says the debt deal is the final nail in the coffin for Keynesian economic philosophy. Just hours after the deal was finalized, it’s already being diced up and spun for partisan campaign fodder. The Atlantic says the debt compromise’s spending cut trigger proves Washington is addicted to crises.

US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords brings down the House by arriving at the Capitol for the first time since being shot and casting her vote in support of the measure, NECN reports. The Arizona congresswoman’s staff tells The Daily Beast her appearance was a rebuke to the partisan rancor of the debate.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sees the debt deal she voted for as a sellout by President Obama, The Daily Beast reports. Mitt Romney opposes the debt-ceiling deal, saying it opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table. The Massachusetts delegation went 7-3 against the deal, with Stephen Lynch, Niki Tsongas, and William Keating casting the only yes votes. John Tierney says the measure compromises America’s defense and punishes the poor and middle class while leaving the nation’s wealthiest unscathed. The Worcester Telegram reports on the no votes cast by Jim McGovern and Richard Neal. The Wall Street Journal reports that lawmakers aligned with the tea party are all sorts of disgruntled today, but the New York Times tosses cold water on the notion of a monolithic tea party movement. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sizes up the US debt position by calling his former Cold War adversary a “parasite.”

The Food and Drug Administration has warned the maker of “Lazy Larry” brownies, which changed its name from “Lazy Cakes,” that the melatonin-laced treats that are marketed as a relaxation aid are unsafe and the agency could seize them off store shelves if they are not taken off the market.

ELECTION 2012

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is apparently pretty serious about this White House thing, because the avowed states’ rights advocate is now pushing wide-ranging federal rules on abortion and gay marriage.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

About 375 debtor creditors who are owed $81 million by Quincy Medical Center are looking at pennies on the dollar from the hospital’s bankruptcy filing. They could also be sent packing because Steward Health Care, which has made a $34 million offer for the hospital, has its own stable of vendors and contractors.

A company headed by the owner of the New Balance Shoe Co. buys the former Birdseye property in Gloucester for $6.5 million, according to a story in the Gloucester Times.

EDUCATION

The state has ordered Somerset school officials to train all staff on policies and procedures to restrain students after a complaint from an aide at the Wilbur Elementary School charged parents weren’t notified and students were being placed in “restrictive environments” for extended periods of time.

TRANSPORTATION

The state Department of Transportation wants to cease spending money for a study on a plan to extend the Blue Line to Charles/MGH because the estimated $749 million project will never be built. Via Universal Hub.

New, old-fashioned security measures start at Logan Airport, as TSA screeners there will be the first in the US to use  an Israeli-style screening system try to pick out suspicious passengers by asking them questions. The Globe , the Herald, and NECN have stories.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Anxiety runs high in Pennsylvania about natural gas fracking. A Duke chemical engineer tries to find out if tainted water stories are true, NPR (via WBUR) reports.

WBUR’s Marketplace focuses on how the United States became so dependent on coal.

Time reports on GOP efforts to gut the Environmental Protection Agency.

A Beverly office park plans to install 2,000 solar panels on its roofs, the Salem News reports.

The EPA has banned boats from discharging human waste within three miles of the Outer Cape coast.

MEDIA

Paul Levy celebrates the fifth anniversary of sharing all manner of thoughts related and unrelated to health care in the blogosphere.  He hints that he’s considering writing a book on the value of social media for those in leadership positions.

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