Green Line
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New date for the ever-delayed Green Line Extension: 2021

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Key members of the Green Line Extension team came to Somerville High School last night, and so did hundreds of residents supporting the Green Line.

The good news is that the project is moving forward again, and now with an experienced project manager at the helm.

The bad news is that all of this delay has of course pushed back the timeline, and stations won’t start opening until mid-2021. Remember when the Green Line was supposed to open in 2011? Yeah, so do we.

The other bad news is that the State is still saying the Community Path is too expensive to build all the way to Lechmere. Many residents urged the team to try harder. So do we.

Keep reading for Ken Krause’s great summary of the meeting…

PROJECT TEAM

John Dalton was introduced as the new GLX project manager. Hired in November, he is a former project manager for the Chicago Transit Authority, and also managed a CTA signals project for a private contractor and a large road and transportation project in Dubai.

In his welcoming remarks, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone called Dalton “the person the project needed to bring it home,” adding that he was eager to work collaboratively with the new GLX team to see the long-delayed project to completion.

Dalton characterized himself as a strong proponent of public transportation and bicycling, noting that he did not own a car in Chicago and bicycled to work for the last five years. He said his job is to deliver the GLX “on budget, on schedule, and incompliance with its scope,” and that he will judge his work on his ability to satisfy three primary stakeholders: the MBTA and MassDOT, the design-build firm selected to complete the project, and future Green Line riders.

He also noted that while much has changed about the GLX over the last 16 months due to cost overages, there has been no change in the overwhelming public support for the project, which he said is “what you want” in any project you are managing.

PROJECT DESIGN

The project design has not changed since the May 9 presentation to the MassDOT board and MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board, which outlined changes and cutbacks to bring to project in line with its $2 billion budget.  The project still calls for seven Green Line stations with the same platform sizes; it includes a vehicle maintenance and storage facility; it conforms with previously approved environmental documents and the Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration; it includes a Community Path extension; and it calls for the same frequency of service.

However, to save costs, every element of the project has been redesigned in some way. (Two of the stations also have new names: Lowell Street Station is now being called Magoun Square Station, and Washington Street Station is now being called East Somerville Station). Among the redesigned elements:

  • The 1.3-mile Community Path extension is now proposed to end at Washington Street, some 3,100 feet short of Lechmere Station, with a street-route option replacing the final segment; some portions of the path also have been narrowed
  • The vehicle maintenance and storage facility has been reduced in size by 50%
  • Passenger amenities at each station have green greatly reduced
  • Station accessibility is “not as robust” as in the previous design, although all stations remain compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • In a few areas, noise mitigation will be administered differently, such as by providing insulation for buildings rather than erecting noise barriers, as previously planned.

Dalton stressed that these changes were essential, because lack of affordability would have resulted in canceling the project. “That was an option at one time,” Dalton said, “but it’s not now.”

CONSTRUCTION METHOD

Dalton said that a “design-build” construction method will be utilized. He explained that design-build allows final design and the start of construction to occur concurrently and by a single entity, which he said should provide a more flexible and predictable pricing model.

PROCUREMENT AND CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULE

A request for proposals from short-listed design-build firms is scheduled to be issued in March 2017. The project teams hopes to award the design-build contract in February 2018. A notice to proceed would also be expected that month, with construction to take 45 months. The schedule calls for the Union Square Branch (1 station) to be in service in June 2021, and the Medford Branch (6 stations, to College Avenue in Medford) to be in service in December 2021.

ENVIRONMENTAL APPROVALS

Andrew Brennan, Director of Environmental Affairs for the MBTA, said that the MBTA expects to file a Notice of Project Change with the Mass. Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA) in mid-January, after which there will be a public meeting and a 20-day public comment period. This document is required to explain to MEPA the changes to the project and to demonstrate that the functionality and environmental benefits of the previous version of the project have been maintained. In August, the Federal Transit Administration issued a letter to MassDOT/MBTA, saying that the scaled-down project appear to fit the scope of the federal funding agreement.

The MBTA is seeking a total of $600,000 in three EPA brownfield grants to cover the costs of environmental cleanups near the proposed maintenance facility ($400,000) and at the future Ball Square Station site ($200,000) at Boston Avenue and Broadway, Medford/Somerville. The brownfield grant proposals are available on the GLX website, and public comments are being accepted through Dec. 19.

The Environmental Notification Form for the proposed Full Build Alternative station at Route 16 likely will be filed in March; a public meeting and comment period will follow. MassDOT agreed to continue the environmental study for the Route 16 station after it prevailed upon the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization to reallocate $158 million that had been programmed for the station, in order to help close the funding gap for the first phase of the project (to College Avenue and Union Square).

This presentation was followed by comments by more than 50 members of the public, many of them advocating restoration of the entire Community Path extension into the project.

SECOND MEETING DEC. 14

The GLX team will conduct this meeting again, in the same format, next Wednesday, December 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Medford City Hall, 85 George P. Hassett Drive. City Hall is served by the MBTA #94 bus from Davis Square Station/Red Line and the #95 bus from Sullivan Square Station/Orange Line.

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