The long GLX wait is over

Pols crowd in at opening of Green Line to Medford


HUNDREDS OF EXCITED riders crowded into trains going north of Lechmere Station for the first time Monday morning, eagerly chattering to other passengers about their experiences waiting for the train and where they were headed first on a new MBTA line.

Of the riders, Gov. Charlie Baker stepped off the T around 10 a.m. at the new Green Line extension terminus, the Medford/Tufts stop, flanked by local, state, and national leaders to a crowd of cheering and camera-clicking onlookers on the platform.

“It feels awesome, it is so exciting to see all these people so ready for the train to be running today. They’ve just shown it in their presence and their energy, and it’s just really, really exciting,” said GLX program manager John Dalton, who oversaw the $2.3 billion project.

The second, longer stretch of the Green Line Extension opened at 4:45 a.m. Monday for an inaugural ride, and an estimated 50,000 daily riders will use the new five stops to travel between Boston, Somerville, and Medford, according to MBTA officials.

While celebrating the landmark opening of the GLX into cities north of Boston — concluding years of work and decades of anticipation — local and state politicians and members of Massachusetts’ federal delegation discussed the long wait for the T, and touted the project as a model for future “green” infrastructure.

“I’ve just got one word: finally,” said US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, dressed on-theme in a green jacket to match the exterior paint of the Green Line trolleys. “This is a great project, and it will give us more transportation capacity, capacity frankly that we’ve needed for more than half a century.”

Conversations around the GLX started in the 1980s, Baker said Monday, when Bay Staters started looking for public transit alternatives around the time of the Big Dig. The MBTA agreed to complete the extension in 2006 after the Boston-based advocacy group Conservation Law Foundation sued the state to move forward on a number of public transportation projects.

Ever since then,  the completion of the extension has been a moving target. The project narrowly avoided a cancellation altogether in 2015, and was scheduled thereafter to open in December 2021, before the state postponed the opening to November of this year and lastly pushed it a few more weeks to this Monday. COVID-19 and supply chain challenges led to later delays in the T’s construction, MBTA officials said.

“I first heard about the new T when I was a prospective student at Tufts 25 years ago.
They told me it would be done by the time I graduated,” said GLX rider Matt Collins on Monday morning. “I took a ride [today] to see what life would have been like.”

Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne recalled bringing her 8-year-old daughter to testify for cleaner air at a GLX community meeting in 2005.

“She asked me that night when she’d get to ride the train. We know the answer now: when you’re 26,” Ballantyne said.

She thanked community leaders, governors across the decades, federal and state lawmakers who advocated for funding and former Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone. Another former Somerville mayor, Mike Capuano, had a new $250 million vehicle maintenance facility at the end of the Green Line dedicated to him earlier on Monday.

Baker and other speakers thanked Capuano, who also represented the area as a congressman, for his role in securing $1 billion in federal funding for the total $2.3 billion project, funds that Baker said were “the main reason we were able to pay for this project.

Leaders from all levels of government said the extension’s opening is a step toward making public transportation more accessible and toward the state’s carbon neutrality goals.

“We must look to our future with planning for all as our guide, we must come to see public transit as a necessary public good like education or roads. We must envision a world class public transit system that will advance the commonwealth’s economic competitiveness, social prosperity and climate action agenda,” Ballantyne said.

Playing off the line’s name and his support for the environmental policy plan the “Green New Deal,” Sen. Ed Markey said the line’s opening is “the dawn of a new green era.”

Next, the MBTA needs to turn its attention to electrifying its bus fleet and commuter rail, and making public transit fare free, Markey said.

He also said that government must work to ensure working class residents of Medford and Somerville are not displaced by rising rents caused by new developments along the Green Line.

Over the past few years, high-rent developments have popped up in neighborhoods that will now be serviced by the Green Line, as promises of the coming T started to come to fruition.

“We must ensure that the people who most benefit from public transit can continue to live near that public transit,” Markey said.

Protesters from the Community Action Agency of Somerville marched from Ball Square Station to Tufts University to meet the government leaders partaking in the morning’s celebrations with chants and signs, urging the state to balance transit investments with legislation to prevent gentrification and support affordable housing.

“Development without Displacement,” “Housing is a Human Right,” and “State House Inaction Equals Our Current Displacement And Affordable Housing Crisis” read signs held by protesters.

“We organized a community marching rally today that is pro transit but against displacement,” said Nicole Eigbrett, Community Action Agency director of community organizing. “While we’re celebrating the arrival of the Green Line, we also want to make sure lawmakers don’t forget that low-income residents are continuing to be displaced and forced out of Somerville. We’re calling on our lawmakers to take decisive action on tenant protections and truly affordable housing.”

Somerville resident and T rider Eric Hustvett said he lives near one of the stops and has watched it under construction for years.

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Sam Drysdale

Reporter, State House News Service
He is frustrated by how long the T took to come, he said, but excited that it’s finally here.

How was the long-anticipated ride? “Surprisingly smooth,” he said.