Buried rail car turned up in GLX excavation
After decades of waiting, Medford branch of Green Line opens Monday
THE TEAM that constructed the Green Line extension to Medford and Somerville encountered all sorts of obstacles over the last four years, including unexpected bedrock, contaminated soil, ground water, and, perhaps the most challenging of all, COVID.
But the most unusual surprise was buried under tons of dirt near what is now the new East Somerville Station on the line from Lechmere to Tufts University in Medford.
“We encountered a buried rail car – like an old freight train flatbed,” said John Dalton, the MBTA’s Green Line extension program manager.
Dalton doesn’t know how the car got there but it was quickly excavated and removed, allowing the project to keep moving forward.
Dalton shared the story on Wednesday as the MBTA gave reporters a ride on the five-stop Medford branch of the line, which is scheduled to open to the public on Monday, ending a decades-long effort to get the project built. The small branch to Union Square in Somerville has been open since March.
The train is expected to run from Lechmere to Tufts in 15 minutes, reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. Art work was developed for each station and a community path runs along the line and into Cambridge, including a “flyover” of all sorts of infrastructure near Lechmere Station.
The Medford and Somerville branches of the Green Line extension are expected to carry 50,000 passengers a day.
It’s a project that almost didn’t happen. During the early design stage, costs ballooned by more than $1 billion to $3 billion. Some officials were ready to throw in the towel and return $1 billion in funding to the federal government.
But ultimately the project was pared back to its essentials, the price tag dropped to $2.3 billion, Somerville and Cambridge chipped in $70 million, and Dalton was recruited from the Chicago Transit Authority to get the project built. He is the highest-paid employee at the MBTA, earning $299,000 in base pay plus a 16 percent “annual success bonus.”
The ground-breaking for the project took place in July 2018. There have been delays, some caused by COVID and other challenges, but overall the project has gone smoothly.
Safety incidents have been minor and minimal and, according to Dalton, “financially the project is in very good shape.”
The T didn’t end up needing the money from Cambridge and Somerville. Dalton said it’s “too early to say” whether money will be left over after work wraps up on Monday and the T moves on to completing odds and ends, including settling up with the contractors.
Dalton and his team expect to finish up some time this summer. Then the big question is whether they will move on to a new project or just disband. Dalton, whose current contract extension expires in mid-2023, wouldn’t say what the next move will be.
“We’re just focused on getting this one done,” he said.