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Green Line finally headed into Somerville, Medford after feds OK funding

It's really happening.

The Green Line extension project finally got a green light from federal authorities this week, which will ante up just under half of funds for the $2.3 billion project.

The long-awaited answer from the Federal Transit Administration means that construction on the planned 4.7-mile extension can begin this fall.

The project has been in the works for years, but the state put the brakes on the extension last year after cost overruns were headed into the $1 billion range.

Though the FTA had previously approved a $1 billion funding grant, the state had to resubmit its scaled-down plans to ensure its cost estimates and project timelines still matched up. Federal authorities gave state transportation officials the OK Monday.

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"The Administration, MassDOT, and MBTA appreciate the Federal Transit Administration's analysis and recognition of the work that was put into the [Green Line extension] project's new design, timeline, cost estimates, and risk review. MassDOT and the MBTA look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners, while continuing to invest in the improvements and long-term infrastructure upgrades to the core system over one million riders depend on each day,” Lisa Battiston, DOT spokeswoman said.

The Green Line is already the busiest light rail system in the nation, according to FTA data, and MBTA officials expect to see ridership nearly double when they add seven new stations throughout Somerville into Medford. The extension will end at Tufts University.

With the final piece of funding approved, transportation officials will continue with the process of selecting a contractor, which should be done by the fall. The project is slated for completion by the end of 2021.

The other $1.3 billion will be funded primarily through state funds. About $1 billion is already earmarked for the project. The rest will be paid for through a $157 million highway funding grant, an additional $64 million state contribution and the cities of Somerville and Cambridge have committed to pay $50 million and $25 million, respectively.