GLX/Ball Square Bridge Closing ……Gentrification Rears Its Ugly Head Once Again In Somerville

Photos by Mark Niedergang

By Judy Locchi Jacobs

Details of this past Wednesday night’s meeting at the Baptist Church on College Avenue, 6:00 p.m.

Those in attendance included about 100 residents living in the area of Wards 5, 6 and 7 which will be impacted by the road block due to GLX work on the tracks.

Also in attendance, members of the board of aldermen, city planners and employees of the MBTA.

Target date for bridge closing – January 2019

Bus Routes effected:

MBTA 80 – Arlington to Lechmere,

89 Davis/Claredon Hill, and 96 in different areas.

There will be anticipated infrequency of bus times, removal of stops and elimination of buses in some cases.

Approximately 800 passengers will be impacted in Powderhouse Blvd.

In order to get commuters to desired locations an alternate route has been established which you can see from the above diagram. So if you want to get to Powderhouse Rotary and beyond, you must take a 5-7 street pathway.

Route is as follows: From East Somerville, WinterHill, Magoun Square — commuters will be forced to use the following path, adjoining streets:

Entry point: Cedar Street>>>>Highland Avenue>>>>College Avenue>>>>Warner Street>>>>Harvard Street>>>>Main Street>>>>Medford Street, Medford.

It was pointed out that over 800 commuters will be impacted at Powerderhouse Blvd., alone. This does not include other areas where commuters must rely on buses to connect to trains.

Also impacted will be residents of Clarendon Hill Towers and North Street who rely on the bus service for work and shopping. This will effect our elderly and low income families.

Those who no longer drive or cannot afford a car of their own will see longer commuting times. Some residents asked how this will effect high school students who rely on the buses to get to the high school.

In my opinion, this is another strategic move on pushing more residents out of our city. When their daily services are impacted, it has a ripple effect on their quality of life. Some will pack up an move on.

I also see this as a possible land grab for Tufts who will be benefiting greatly by the GLX. In fact, many have said GLX is Tufts private train system. For those of us who have lived and worked in the area it’s abundantly clear, which class of residents will continue to be negatively impacted while the other continues to reap the benefits.

Steven Mackey, President of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce asked this of the City Planners: “Will the mitigation timeline budget be neutral”?

In other words, will the state avoid cost over-runs if the project is delayed?

There was no answer provided, which seems to be a common occurrence at meetings held by the city administration.

Mackey also inquired of the13,000 motorists who are traveling on one street (tracked by electronic device), x over a year, that amounts of 4,750,000 trips.

He asked if there was research done to compare similar projects in the state so we could better plan an address unanticipated issues.

The planner responded, “I can’t talk about mitigation”.

One resident of Baystate Road complained to the planner, “You didn’t list our street on your map, the intersection of Pearson and Baystate needs a crosswalk”.

The planner responded, “This is a super pragmatic quest”.

It was also encouraged by city planning staff that all residents focus their shopping needs on the businesses in Ball Square who may be negatively impacted by the bridge closure.

One planner added, “Be sure to spend some money when the project begins”!

As the planner circled the room with the camera man and mic in tow…he avoided some residents who had hands in the air throughout the meeting — finally before wrapping up, he allowed a few more questions —

I asked the following:

The Davis Square Red Line is already at full capacity with daily commuters. Will the Red Line be further impacted by displaced commuters who will be forced to use other modes of MBTA service? (NO RESPONSE)

Residents were also mentioning increase of rodent sightings and city planner said they are working with the health department and ISD to deal with it.

I also stated the following to the body of residents–

We are seeing an increase of rodents in the city and in our neighborhoods due to multiple redevelopment projects going on simultaneously. If you start seeing evidence of rodents in your yard or home, contact the city immediately because when the bridge is shut down, it will be worse. We saw an increase after Davis Square stop was built and it lasted for 4 years.

I also said that Cedar Street residents have already been impacted by the sewer issues for 4 years so why should they now deal with the detoured traffic aimed their way for who knows how long?

One resident had complained how it negatively impacted the neighborhood.

I also said it was unfair to cut buses from the residents who need them the most– Clarendon Hill, those bordering S.Medford and Powderhouse Blvd and Ball Square.

I had one more question I didn’t get to ask — that others have asked —

“How was the decision made to the time frame of this project with respect to the progress of GLX”?

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