By Jusneel Mahal
Boston University Press Service
BOSTON – MTBA officials have announced that the opening of the Union Square branch of the Green Line Extension has been delayed for the second time this year. Originally scheduled to open in October, the one-stop-shop line is expected to come into service in March 2022.
MBTA chief executive Steve Poftak said the latest delay was mainly due to issues with an electrical substation near the Cambridge-Somerville border. The substation converts energy and powers the green line carts on the Union Square branch. The first delay was attributed to supply chain issues magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Terrence McCarthy, deputy program director on the $ 2.3 billion project, said they did not have enough resources to complete the first electrical substation.
âWe have 650 crew members, and that’s still not enough,â said McCarthy.
The Somerville resident said it takes a lot of infrastructure to convert the roughly 800 volts of direct current needed to run the substation. McCarthy is hoping the six-stop Medford branch, which was delayed from December to May 2022, will not be pushed back either.
The latest delay in extending the 4.3-mile Green Line has tested the patience of some locals. The initial planning for the long-awaited project took place in 1991.
âI’m disappointed with the delay, but I realize that the supply chain and labor issues are beyond the control of the project,â said Joanne Johnson, from Somerville. âPart of the reason we bought our house was the fact that we would have a green line station a few hundred feet from our front door. Progress has been slow lately, but watching the tracks come to life in our backyard has been fun. “
Johnson has found the construction noise and traffic lanes disruptive – she can’t wait to live in a quieter neighborhood.
Jamaica Plain resident Stacy Thompson believes some of the recent complaints about the project aren’t quite fair.
âEvery project has someone complaining about something, and I don’t see anything particularly egregious about that project,â said Thompson, executive director of the Livable Streets Alliance. âAs a knowledgeable advocate, who knows the ins and outs of this project, I’m not worried about this delay as they were able to keep the project on track during COVID.â
Thompson added that they were eagerly awaiting to see the benefits of the extension on local businesses in Somerville.
âPeople like me didn’t make it to Somerville because it was just a pain to get to that area,â Thompson said. As soon as the project is finished, she plans to spend more nights in the area.
Thompson, who is working to create fair and affordable transit in the Somerville and Boston area, thanks Poftak for completing the project on budget and on a new schedule. Poftak notably succeeded Luis Ramirez as the new MTBA project manager in 2018.
Poftak said they would return tens of millions of dollars that Cambridge and Somerville have contributed to the project.
After years of stalled negotiations, the people of Somerville can finally see progress on the extension.
âI think everyone knows that overtime is finally going to take place. We’ve gotten used to the delays, âsaid David Gibbs, who has lived near Porter Square since 1992.â I’d be willing to bet that next spring I’ll get on a Green Line train through Somerville. – I hope I’m right.
While Gibbs believes the extension will benefit wealthy developers the most, he believes it will also generate tax revenue for the city and create affordable housing.
âLinkage fees and other payments negotiated by neighborhood councils, through community benefit agreements, will help develop additional affordable housing,â Gibbs said.
He said he thinks the project can be a net positive if the city continues to ensure that the people who now live in Somerville can continue to live there.
For Gibbs, the biggest challenge is finding solutions to the rapid gentrification created by the new line. Earlier this year, a fairness analysis found that the extension will provide a distinct advantage to non-minority runners and a disproportionate advantage to non-low-income runners.
This is due to profound demographic changes in the neighborhoods closest to Green Line stops.
âCertainly a lot of the people who were here 25 years ago aren’t here now, and they won’t get any of the benefits,â Gibbs said. “But we want to keep the remaining people here so they can benefit from all this new development.”