Union square

Green Line extension service to Union Square in Somerville begins Monday – NBC Boston

After years of planning and construction, officials held a grand opening for part of the Green Line extension on Monday. The long-term project, aimed at providing services in areas that historically lacked access to public transit, is nearing completion.

From Monday, spots north of Lechmere station in Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville will now be accessible by train for faster public transport. Also on Monday, service between Gare du Nord and Lechmere will resume.

Massachusetts originally set a December 2014 deadline for the expansion before a cavalcade of cost overruns and contractor issues nearly put an end to it. Nearly a decade earlier, the Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit over the slow pace of public transit improvements to offset the environmental impacts of the Big Dig project. In 1990 – 32 years ago – in response to an earlier CLF lawsuit, the state originally pledged to extend the Green Line to Tufts University in Medford.

From Monday, spots north of Lechmere station in Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville will now be accessible by train for faster public transport. Also on Monday, service between Gare du Nord and Lechmere will resume.

But even that wasn’t the first milestone on the way to the moment late Monday morning when a brand new trolley carrying a clown car of politicians rolled through an MBTA-branded green ribbon: as the US senator noted Ed Markey moments later. , the first formal proposal to extend the T beyond Lechmere station landed in 1926.

“I can’t remember a day in my life when the people of Somerville didn’t think the Green Line was coming soon,” said Mike Capuano, former congressman and former mayor of Somerville, now aged 70 years old.

“A Great Imminent Dig 2.0”

After decades of speed bumps, near-collapses and false starts, the first Green Line extension train rolled out of Union Station in Somerville around 4.50am on Monday, heading for a brand new Lechmere station in Cambridge, a reopened Science Park station, then the rest of the line in and beyond Boston.

The hours that followed brought throngs of passengers, transit enthusiasts and political actors to Cambridge and Somerville, many of whom lingered on station platforms to snap photos of MBTA cards emblazoned with “Union Square” and “Lechmere”.

As well as the first station in Somerville, the opening of the extension welcomed passengers to a new platform at Lechmere station overlooking the old stop, which has been closed to trains since 2020.

The pandemic has helped speed up the construction of the project by reducing rail and automobile traffic. The Union Square branch represents the smaller of two parts of the Green Line extension running from a rebuilt Lechmere station in Cambridge.

Union Square is currently undergoing a redevelopment, called the Union Square Revitalization Project, which is being led by Union Square Station Associates (US2). US2 President Greg Karczewski said extending the Green Line is a critical part of the project because it will connect part of Somerville to Boston’s economy in a way that hasn’t been realized. for a century.

“It’s going to provide more accessibility and make it a place to live, work and visit,” Karczewski said. “It’s all part of a plan we’ve been working on with the city to really turn Union Square into the shopping center of Somerville.”

From Monday, spots north of Lechmere station in Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville will now be accessible by train for faster public transport.

Fears of gentrification cast a shadow over the celebration

As elected officials swarmed the Charles River to celebrate Monday’s opening, community advocates warned the benefits of new rapid transit stops could be outweighed by displacement and soaring real estate prices.

Several dozen activists gathered outside Lechmere station, calling on national and local authorities to act quickly to prioritize the development of affordable housing and to erect guardrails around investment in the area.

Although she stressed that she supported the extension, Somerville Community Action Agency’s director of community organizing, Nicole Eigbrett, said the new transit option had “unintended consequences and had resulted in new developments and rent increases aimed at wealthier professionals attracted to the extension.

Somerville, she said, has turned into a “gold mine for investors.”

“Gentrification doesn’t really happen in Somerville by big business,” Eigbrett said. “It’s been done by an army of predatory small investors, developers and greedy landlords reaping the benefits and evicting the very people this train extension was meant to be built for.”

Vanessa Vela, who has lived in Somerville for 17 years, said her landlord approached her in September asking her and her family to leave while converting other units in the building and listing them at significantly higher rents.

After speaking with her mother and son, who is in high school, Vela said she decided to reject an offer from her landlord that included several months of canceled rent. Instead, she decided to fight to stay in her house, and since then the landlord has refused to negotiate a new lease, Vela said.

“My mother has been contributing to the Massachusetts economy for over 30 years, but that’s not enough for them,” said Vela, who, like her mother, is an immigrant from El Salvador. “They think we’re unworthy of living in Somerville because it’s become a town for rich people. That’s all they want.”

The MBTA announced the opening of the first stop of the Green Line extension at the end of February. In early February, new test trains were running on the Green Line extension as the transit agency worked out the choreography for the line through Somerville and Medford.

The other branch of the Green Line to College Avenue in Medford, near Tufts University, has yet to be completed. The opening date of the branch remains uncertain. Officials had targeted May 2022 to launch the service there, but Poftak has hinted in recent months that the date could be pushed back yet again.

MBTA officials expect that once the two branches of the 4.7-mile extension are open, passengers will make about 45,000 additional rides per day.

And while some elected officials took advantage of Monday to take a lap of honor, others set their sights on the steps to follow.

Several speakers at the crowded opening ceremony, including Senator Patricia Jehlen and Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne, called on the MBTA and the Baker administration to further extend the Green Line to Mystic Valley Parkway.

State officials considered extending the Green Line to Mystic Valley Parkway, also known as Route 16, more than a decade ago, but the addition isn’t in any of the existing plans.

“It’s an important step, but our job is not done,” Jehlen said. “A lot of people now think the green line will definitely end at Tufts/West Medford, but we won’t stop until it hits Route 16.”

Former Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who was among them on the very first train that left Union Square early Monday morning, voiced support for the further extension and a new push into Porter Square to connect the Green and Red Lines, which also intersect at Park Street downtown from Boston.

“I’m going to take another train ride,” Curtatone joked as he walked away from the podium.

State House News Service contributed to this report.