Romney: No money for Greenbush
By JEFFREY WHITE
Gov. Mitt Romney has raised a big caution flag on plans for restoring the Greenbush commuter rail line.
There is no money for Greenbush or any other building project unless they are absolutely necessary, Romney said yesterday during a visit to Fall River.
Answering a question about the Greenbush line between Braintree and Scituate, and a proposed commuter rail extension that would link Boston and New Bedford, Romney said during a radio interview:
‘‘It will be years before these projects see the light of day. It will be years before these projects get off the drawing board and into the ground.''
Romney made essentially the same statement when asked about Greenbush at another Fall River stop by Terry Fancher, general manager of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce
‘‘He said, ‘Ninety-nine percent of the politicians out there would not give you an answer. I am the 1 percent that will.' He said we have no money, and the MBTA has no money,'' Fancher said.
‘‘He then said ‘I am not saying these are bad projects: I just don't see how we are going to fund them in the immediate future,''' Fancher said.
Fancher said today that the Quincy-based chamber, which has been one of Greenbush's staunchest backers, will make the case for building the rail line to the Legislature.
Fancher added that ‘‘there is money there for Greenbush. We will fight it on that (legislative) level and convince the governor that there is money there to build Greenbush.''
The New Bedford Standard Times today quoted Romney making a similar comments about Greenbush and other rail projects at the groundbreaking yesterday for an industrial building in Fall River.
‘‘There is no capital for discretionary projects this year, or for the next few years,'' the newspaper quoted Romney as saying. ‘‘It is unlikely that this year, or even in the next couple, that you will see the MBTA expanding any of its programs.''
The governor's comments left some members of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce wondering whether Romney has changed his position on the Greenbush project, which would be the third leg of the MBTA's Old Colony Rail Line. Trains on the line currently run between Boston and Plymouth and Boston and Middleboro.
Fancher said Romney's comments suggested the governor had less enthusiasm for Greenbush than he indicated several months ago. ‘‘Something has happened in the last couple of months, and I don't know exactly what.''
The Greenbush project has been under a six-month construction moratorium since February, after MBTA and state transportation officials concluded that unresolved issues involving permitting and access to rail beds could result in large cost increases.
Since then, many state officials have become decidedly noncommittal about Greenbush, saying it was being included in an overall review of the state's major transportation projects.
The Greenbush line would run through Scituate, Cohasset, Hingham and Weymouth before joining the other two Old Colony lines in Braintree. The project has faced resistance, particularly in Hingham, from people who argued it was too disruptive and was not economical.
The MBTA still needs a key permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, and it needs to complete negotiations with Weymouth and Braintree.
Romney sounded encouraging when he spoke about Greenbush with members of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce in April. He said the project ‘‘ought to score pretty well'' as his administration reviewed planned transportation improvements.
He was not as enthusiastic last night.
Although he said all of the MBTA's proposed projects are ‘‘alive and well,'' he did not say where Greenbush ranked among them.
MBTA officials dismissed the idea that the governor had changed his mind about Greenbush.
‘‘(Romney) is just saying we have to prioritize, which is nothing new from what we said before,'' MBTA spokesman Jon Carlisle insisted.
Jeffrey White may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..
Copyright 2003 The Patriot Ledger