Somerville/Medford-Building the GLX to Route 16

After waiting for many years, there is finally some good news about the Green Line Extension (GLX) to Somerville and Medford. Federal approval is moving forward, the state has met all of its milestones, and the contractors who will re-start the project will be chosen in the next few weeks. The first portion of the GLX project, Phase I, will run from Lechmere Station to College Avenue in Medford, near Tufts University, with a separate spur from Lechmere to Union Square. The news that the GLX is moving forward is positive and it’s about time.

But what about the next part of the project: Phase II? This section, from College Avenue to Route 16/Mystic Valley Parkway on the Somerville/Medford border, is critical and would connect a much greater portion of our dense neighborhoods to this historic expansion of public transit. After years of waiting, this project has also finally moved a step closer.

The planned stop at Route 16 was removed from Phase I of the GLX a number of years ago, but Phase II has been moving along on its own track. Phase II was originally provided with funding through a statewide process to distribute federal highway funds for projects through the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which found it to be one of the highest scoring projects in years based on environmental advantages and mobility. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the regional planning agency for our area, found that the Route 16 station would help bring nearly 250 new jobs, and potentially new housing options.

Over the last few years, Phase I of the GLX ran into cost and management issues at the state level and was “revised” to reduce the price and footprint of the project. In order to keep Phase I moving forward, it was decided that funding previously earmarked for Phase II would instead be used to fill the budget gap for GLX to College Avenue. While this was necessary to get the GLX project off the ground, it has created challenges to realizing the full GLX.

After a large amount of work by local advocates, the mayors of Medford and Somerville and local legislators, MassDOT (Department of Transportation) has fulfilled its commitment to begin the planning of Phase II of the GLX to Route 16 by conducting the environmental review of the project. The current plan travels from College Avenue in Medford, down the commuter rail tracks (along Boston Avenue) to the current UHaul building on Route 16 at the Somerville/Medford line. The initial review has not found any significant challenges, and lays out the early design of the extension and terminal (available at www.greenlineextension.org). Comments on the environmental review are due by November 28 to the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, and a public meeting on the design process is being held on Monday, November 20 at from 6-8PM at 51 Winthrop Street in Medford.

The GLX stop at Route 16 not only brings public transportation access to a number of environmental justice communities, but would connect a greater region of car-centric suburbs to help provide an easy, accessible transit option for thousands of people in the Medford, Arlington, and Somerville area and beyond. This segment of the extension is, many transportation advocates would argue, one of the most beneficial to the Greater Boston area.

While Phase I of the GLX is a promising start to long-overdue improvements to transit systems in our dense urban areas, completing the full project all the way to Route 16/Mystic Valley Parkway will mean that thousands of people can use our transit system to get to work, school and other activities. We need to continue to support strong options for transit in our region to build the economy and provide opportunities to keep supporting our region.

Christine Barber

State Representative

34th Middlesex District

Somerville and Medford

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