By State Representative Christine P. Barber
After decades of advocacy, I was thrilled to celebrate the opening of the Green Line Extension through my district in Somerville and Medford last week. This public works project is the result of years of hard work from countless community members, laborers, activists, and colleagues at all levels of government. I’m proud that we made it to our opening day to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Like many, riding the Green Line Extension (GLX) feels like a dream come true to me. I remember being a resident in a packed auditorium at Somerville high school during the 2005 Red Sox playoffs, asking the T to build the Extension, but not sure it would actually ever happen. Now, we have new stations from Lechmere to Union to Gilman to College Ave, decades after the first push.
This project is an example of successful collaboration between a huge number of stakeholders. State Representatives, Senators, and their staffers worked closely with the MBTA team for years. Past and present federal delegation members secured federal funding, without which this project would literally not have been possible. Our local leadership, current and former mayors of Somerville and Medford and their staff did the day-to-day work to bring this project to fruition in our communities.
But at its core, the Green Line Extension was truly a community-led public works project. Activists from STEP (Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership) spent decades fighting to build the GLX. Environmental stewards from the Conservation Law Foundation fought for it in court. GLX Working Group members spent a decade planning this project. Business leaders in our Squares pushed for it. Countless others showed up, over and over, to demand better public transit. We have the GLX today because of the work of so many– across Somerville, Medford, and the entire region– to bring the first expansion of public transit to Massachusetts in decades. The opening of the GLX shows that we can do big things when we work together.
We’ve felt the challenges as a community, too. Many residents have lived in a construction zone for years. Businesses have weathered closed roads and bridges, and significant drops in customers. With rising rents and speculation, many people have been displaced from our city due to rising housing costs, challenging all of us to continue to address affordable housing and rent stabilization for residents.
The GLX will have an immediate impact on the lives, economy and health of people living here. It introduces clean public transit through some of the most densely populated areas of our state and the country. It makes critical improvements to air quality and is crucial to economic mobility– serving a number of environmental justice communities that face intense traffic congestion. The GLX provides opportunities to create sustainable development and boost transit ridership.
But there is more work to be done. When we started this expansion, the original terminus was at Route 16/Mystic Valley Parkway. I am partnering with other leaders to continue to move that project forward to bring greater mobility and improvements in air quality. The T is essential for our economy, for our ability to address climate justice, and for people to get to work, school, or the grocery store. We must re-commit to making the T the safe, reliable and accessible transit system our communities need. This means making transit affordable through fare-free trains throughout the region, and making our transit as green and clean as possible. Buses and the commuter rails that run through our cities are past-due to be electrified. I helped pass a bill to set deadlines for the MBTA to purchase electric buses, and am now working to phase out all diesel on commuter rails.
Now is a time to celebrate a win for clean air and for the health and mobility of people in our communities. We have proven that we can get big things done when we work together. Let’s use that energy to dream about what’s next and make the next phase just as successful.