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Green Line Extension Delayed Again, Somervillians Voice Disappointment

Aug 04 4:09 pm

By Danielle Kennedy

The Green Line Extension project has been pushed back yet again, and Somerville commuters are not happy, to say the least. The project was already reslated for 2015 last year, much to chagrin of residents in Somerville neighborhoods that would hugely benefit from a T stop.

Is it 2014 yet? No, but looks like you'll have to wait even longer.

Now projecting stations will go into service 2018 at the earliest but possibly as late as 2020, MassDOT chalks up this most recent delay to a decision to acquire most of the necessary land and permits before allowing companies to bid on the building and design rights, which they say could have prevented expensive delays in the reopening of the Greenbush Commuter Rail line. Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, told the Boston Globe that while MassDOT’s reasoning is valid, he also suspects the department’s ongoing financial issues, stating about better transportation offerings, “…People want these things, but if you want ‘em you have to pay for ‘em.”

Regardless of whether or not the state has the funding for this project to go forward, many residents are upset that aside from the vague promises, there has been nothing concrete offered to prove that this project is underway. Mayor Curtatone is one of these outraged residents, calling for Somerville inhabitants and business owners alike to demand accountability from all those involved in the process in a letter/phone/email campaign on the Resistat blog Tuesday. The mayor proclaimed, “A four-year delay of the Green Line Extension bereft of any tangible commitments from the Commonwealth is simply unacceptable. Somerville deserves a transparent, accurate timeline for the [project], with clear deliverables.” An online petition that went up the same day already has nearly 1000 signatures at the time of this post, with signers citing complaints from skyrocketing rents in promised T stop locations and suppressed neighborhood development to underfunding and broken legal promises.

Will a station in Brickbottom and other underserviced Somerville neighborhoods ever become a reality?

This delay prefaces what could be a frightening trend in greener transportation initiatives state and nationwide. The Green Line Extension was conceived in conjunction with the Big Dig in order to fulfill the tenets of the federal Clean Air Act and avoid a costly lawsuit from the Conservation Law Foundation. Obviously, these kinds of projects cost money, funds that state programs just don’t have right now in our current economic condition. However, this puts us in a catch-22, because the longer MassDOT waits to build, the more expensive the extension will become, and additional money will still have to be spent on Big Dig pollution-offset projects to comply with the original CLF settlement deadline in 2014.

In reference to court support his nonprofit has received for the Green Line extension and other air quality-improving projects across New England, CLF attorney Raphael Mares has said, “I think underlying all of this is an attempt to address the fact that we’re underfunding transportation in general.” Anonymous signer #274 in the aforementioned petition sums up this failure of accountability perfectly: “What good is a legal mandate if it can simply be ignored?”

The state, MassDOT, and the impacted community have all had their say, so what do you, as SLFers, think? How will another delay impact the growth of local businesses and burgeoning Somerville neighborhoods? We’d love to hear what you have to say, so please write in the comments section below.


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