MBTA gets set to lay tracks

On March 20, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

GLX construction starts this month

Residents can expect traffic disruptions as the rail bridge over Medford Street is rebuilt to add tracks for the coming Green Line Extension. ~Photo courtesy of the MBTA

Residents can expect traffic disruptions as the rail bridge over Medford Street is rebuilt to add tracks for the coming Green Line Extension. ~Photo courtesy of the MBTA

By Elizabeth Sheeran

After years of discussion and planning, the Green Line Extension is finally moving from the conference room to the job site. Contractor Barletta Heavy Division will start work this month on the first phase of the long-awaited project, which will extend the MBTA light rail through Somerville to Medford, adding six new Green Line stations.

An important first step in the $1.3 billion mass transit project, Phase One takes care of two bridges and a building that stand in the way of plans to lay Green Line tracks alongside the existing commuter rail lines to Fitchburg and Lowell.

The MBTA’s commuter rail right-of-way is wide enough to fit the extra tracks in all but two places, where the railway crosses the road on elevated bridges. Barletta will rebuild and widen the rail bridges over Medford Street in Somerville, near the Somerville Avenue Target store, and over Harvard Street in Medford, near Saint Clement School. Phase One also includes demolishing a building on the site of the new Lechmere Station in Cambridge.

Widening the Medford Street bridge will take most of 2013 and into early next year. Most of the time, the work can move along by closing only one lane of Medford Street at a time. But Barletta Project Manager Seta Kalaijian said the contractor will need to block the street completely for two to four weekends in late summer or early fall. She said the road closures won’t be on back-to-back weekends, and they’ll work around planned street festivals.

Rebuilding the Harvard Street bridge will take longer and have more of an impact on the neighborhood. It involves constructing over 800 feet of retaining wall, erecting noise barriers, and raising both the bridge and the road underneath it by over a foot. Barletta will also widen and re-route a drainage pipe from private backyards to nearby Winchester Street, to alleviate chronic flooding problems under the bridge during all but the worst storms.

The work is planned to last until late-2014 and will require rolling lane closures on both Harvard and Winchester Streets. On at least a half-dozen weekends starting this September and continuing next spring, Barletta will have to completely close down a stretch of Harvard Street, which is a common pass-through route for traffic going from Interstate 93 to Powderhouse Circle and Davis Square.

Kalaijian said Barletta is working closely with the cities of Somerville, Medford and Cambridge to manage traffic disruptions, is directly in touch with resident abutters, and has an active plan to contain rodent problems. It will be posting two-week “look-ahead” work and road closure schedules online at www.greenlineextension.org. And residents can call the Emergency Construction Hotline any time at 1-855-GLX-INFO.

Most residents who attended a March 14 public meeting in Somerville saw little of concern in the plans for Phase One. “The only thing that’s going to happen is that there’s going to be a lot of traffic and people aren’t going to be happy about that. But we have that now,” said Ellin Reisner of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP), a local transit advocacy group.

Meeting attendees were just as interested in what’s ahead with Phase Two of the Green Line Extension project, which includes extending the Green Line from Lechmere Station as far as a new station at Washington Street on the main line, and to Union Square on a spur line. Phase Two construction is set to begin in mid-2014 and run through 2016, so the first passengers should ride into Union Square sometime in mid-2017.

Phase Three entails building a new maintenance facility in the Inner Belt area, to house all the extra cars that will be needed to service the extended line, and the final four stations will go online in Phase Four. MBTA planners said there’s a lot that can happen over the next six years with such a complicated project, but right now they project a 50 percent probability that the entire line will be operational by sometime in 2019.

That’s still a long way out. But for supporters who have been waiting years for more public transit in Somerville, the Phase One start is a sign that it’s finally becoming a reality.

“We had the first public meeting in Somerville the night the Red Sox won the World Series against Saint Louis and broke the curse,” said Reisner, who noted that STEP is now over a decade old. “Now they’ve got a contractor and they’re starting construction. It’s as real as it’s been.”



22 Responses to “MBTA gets set to lay tracks”

  1. Dolo says:

    Medford Street in Somerville doesn’t get within 2000 feet of a Target store. In a small city like Somerville, that’s a long ways away. Is the bridge you’re talking about on Medford St. near Pearl St, right behind the high school?

  2. JMB says:

    The GLX will never get past Phase One. The governor will be unable to raise the money needed to finance the actual construction of the GLX and other transportation problems – and the federal government won’t pitch in until he can.

  3. Boston Kate says:

    “Medford Street in Somerville doesn’t get within 2000 feet of a Target store.”

    Actually, railroad tracks run behind the Target on Somerville Ave.

    “Is the bridge you’re talking about on Medford St. near Pearl St, right behind the high school?”

    No, it’s the bridge that spans Medford Street, right beside Target.

  4. Anne says:

    Dolo – Medford St. in Somerville is in 2 parts (construction of McGrath Highway ate the middle). Coming from Medford (the town), after joining McGrath at the end of Highland, Medford St then leaves it again by the Target, curving around the SW side of Twin City Plaza where somewhere very close to the plaza entrance it crosses the Cambridge border and becomes Gore Street. Check it out on a map.

  5. Susan says:

    I think the picture above is Harvard Street, Medford. Oops!

  6. Joe says:

    Moreover, the at the Medford St crossing in Somerville, the tracks go UNDER the road, not over. The only places that the tracks go over the road are Harvard St (as the article mentions) and Mystic Ave in Medford (which is, as I understand it, the terminus of the Green Line extension or near it)

  7. PDA says:

    Medford Street basically merges with McGrath; the off ramp for Union “becomes” Medford St again at the Washington St intersection and turns into Gore St at the Cambridge line, by Twin City Plaza.

    The bridge they’re talking about is the one behind Hub Glass and CW Price.

  8. Villenous says:

    Can’t wait until the Green Line naysayers have to resort to “This car will never make it all the way to Lechmere. Bandits will hijack it and take it off to their secret lair.”

  9. Danny says:

    You misread that DOLO. Those are two different sites. One is the Medford st location, and a second location is by the target on Washington st I between Sullivan station and union sq.

  10. Lisa says:

    Dolo, Medford Street runs south from the eastern end of Highland Ave along/underneath McGrath Highway, until it becomes Gore Street (near Twin City Plaza). The Target they’re referring to is the one on Somerville Ave near McGrath. I’m guessing the bridge is the one that runs sort of between Pat’s Towing and the back side of Target.

  11. Scott says:

    Medford st bridge is right next to Somerville Ave Target

  12. Pete says:

    The “Medford Street Bridge” here is for the spur line. It sits near Horace St. and Ward St past where Medford St kinda melds with McGrath Hwy. There is definitely a Target there, formerly one of the “Caldor” brand stores, possibly the tiniest Target ever. This street is very busy at morning and evening rush hour since its a route over to Cambridge St without going through Union square or East Cambridge. On Google Maps it comes up if you search for 68-84 Medford St, Somerville MA.

  13. kevin says:

    Bring it on would like to see it before i die

  14. Ron Newman says:

    Dolo: Medford Street is right next to Target!

  15. Villen J says:

    Dolo if you look at a map of somerville or knew about medford st is that it stops at McGrath but starts again at the corner of somerville ave right next to target and goes until the Cambridge line when it becomes gore st.

  16. Janet says:

    Medford Street goes on past the high school and crosses Highland Ave continuing on the side of McGrath/O’brien highway. Wall the way down to where Burger King is on Somerville Ave. It continues past Target, and there is the bridge the article is talking about. Town line then turns Medford St in Gore St I believe in Cambridge.

  17. Tom Walsh says:

    Yes, Medford St. does get very close to a Target Store. The McGrath highway obscures this a bit, but Medford St. actually “multiplexes” with the last few feet of Highland, then travels beside/under the McGrath and crosses Washington St. and Somerville Ave. It becomes Gore St. when it crosses the city line in Cambridge. You can see it a lot better on a map than you can in real life.

    So the bridge in question is indeed on Medford St., between Somerville Ave and the Cambridge line.

  18. SwapMom says:

    @Dolo, Medford St runs right by Target in Somerville….
    it actually continues after crossing McGrath and runs from Target down to right behind Twin City Plaza where it turns into Gore St.
    The track they are speaking of runs over Medford St right there, next to the storage place. You can see it here on google maps-


    If you’ve ever tried to get from Cambridge to Somerville around 5pm on that stretch of Rd, you’d be VERY familiar with it, as it is backed up all the way under that bridge and beyond! I can only imagine what it will look like once construction begins! (though it’s worth it if we really do finally get the T)

  19. j. connelly says:

    Yep, riding the GLX rails right beside those highly explosive “ethanol” loaded railroad tank cars. Bettah up your life insurance if you ride this route on the GLX. Will the in$urance companies be upping the premium rates of homes near the railroad tracks when the “ethanol” trains role through?

  20. Colin Roald says:

    I assume she’s talking about the bridge on Medford St between Somerville Ave and Ward St. That’s about 500′ behind the Somerville Ave Target.

  21. Chris says:

    The information in the article is correct. The bridge in the picture does cross over Medford St and the tracks run right behind the Target store on Somerville Ave. This will be part of the “spur” line that feeds the Union Square station. It is a different set of tracks then those that rest of the Green line extension will use to go through Somerville towards Medford.

  22. Joe says:

    Ah I get it. So there is a spur that goes to Union Square over the bridge in the photo and then the main part of the Green Line extension goes to Tufts and West Medford. Is that it?

    Must be. The article wouldn’t make any sense otherwise. The tracks that actually cross Medford st in the photo head towards Porter Square. They certainly don’t cross Harvard St anywhere nor do they head for Tufts

    The Green Line Extension route that heads towards Tufts also intersects with Medford St, approximiately one mile to the north of the point in the link that SwapMom posted. And at *that* crossing, the tracks go under Medford St, not over.

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