With Delays, Rutherford Avenue Federal Funding Diverted to Other Projects

Delays in the Rutherford Avenue/Sullivan Square Re-Design project have pushed funding commitments from the Boston MPO to other projects – including a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project expansion now under construction in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.

With Rutherford and a few other projects not ready to be advertised in the current fiscal year, as planned, the Boston MPO ran into a surplus of money. Moving some other projects forward, like the final leg of the Green Line Extension (GLX), it opened up the ability to fully fund the JP center-lane BRT project.

That said, the Boston MPO did indicate that it still planned to fully fund the Rutherford Avenue project in future funding programs, and it has been moved forward for a start in funding in Federal Fiscal Year 2023. The Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The federal government is currently in FFY 2021.

The Rutherford Avenue project was programmed to be funded int eh 2021-2025 MPO Plan, with the first payments of $10.3 million coming towards the end of 2021. Payments of more than $25 million and as much as $44 million had been committed to the $146.37 million project already, but a vote of the Boston MPO recently changed that commitment – and postponed funding because the project was still not ready to advertise.

“Several MPO-funded projects funded in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2022, including Rutherford Avenue, were pushed back due to concerns that they would not be ready to advertise for construction in that year,” said Spokesperson Tegin Teich. “Those projects were the Reconstruction of Rutherford Avenue in Boston, the Rehabilitation of Mount Auburn Street in Watertown, Intersection Improvements at Route 1 and University Avenue/Everett Street in Norwood and Intersection Improvements at Route 1A and Upland Road/Washington Street and Prospect Street/Fulton Street in Norwood. This created a funding surplus in FFY 2022. To use this funding, the last year of the MPO’s funding for the Green Line Extension (GLX) project was moved from FFY 2021 into FFY 2022. These funds were no longer needed for GLX to continue to move forward in FFY 2021, and this shift has no impact on the project’s construction schedule.”

With Rutherford not ready, and the GLX project moved ahead, that created excess money to be shifted to the Jamaica Plain BRT Bus project extension. That project is currently under construction on Columbus Avenue there and runs from Centre Street to Walnut Avenue there. The funding that was to go to Rutherford Avenue/Sullivan Square re-design will now fund extending that center BRT lane on Columbus Avenue from Centre Street in JP to Ruggles Station in Roxbury.

“With GLX moved into FFY 2022, this created a funding surplus in FFY 2021 (the current year),” wrote Teich. “The Columbus Avenue bus lane emerged as a good candidate for these funds because the project was ready to move forward this year and aligns well with the MPO’s goals of funding more bus-priority corridors and enhancing equity and access to transit. The MPO voted to include Columbus Ave in FFY 2021 as a result.”

The Boston MPO said it isn’t dropping the Rutherford Re-design project, but due to it not being ready, it had to be moved two fiscal years forward. That would mean funding wouldn’t become available for the first year of the project until at least October 2022.

“Rutherford has moved into FFYs 2023-2027, and the MPO anticipates fully funding the project with that final year, 2027,” she said. “So, the MPO still expects to fund the project even though the current TIP doesn’t cover all the years.”

The project costs right now are $146.37 million, and there is a substantial amount of money that has been contributed by Wynn Resorts as part of the mitigation plan for opening Encore Boston Harbor resort. The casino in 2014 committed to making $20 million in improvements to the corridor in alignment with the long-term plan for Rutherford/Sullivan. Some $5 million of that was spent on short-term improvements that are already completed. Another $15 million goes directly to the long-term project. The casino committed to spending a total of $65 million in traffic improvements for the area more than six years ago.

Boston Transportation Department (BTD) officials said last fall that they had submitted plans to the Boston MPO for the 25 percent milestone, and expected to have a public meeting last January, but that didn’t happen. There was no word on where the project stood at the moment, but 75 percent design was anticipated by June 2021.

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