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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

MBTA begins testing trains on GLX

A sign promoting the MBTA Green Line Extension Project is pictured on April 17, 2018.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has begun testing trains along the Green Line Extension (GLX), which was originally stated to open by the end of 2021 and is now scheduled to open in summer 2022. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, along with Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne and former Mayor Joe Curtatone, rode a part of the GLX on Dec. 30, 2021, reflecting the Somerville community's anticipation of the project's completion.

The project involves an extension of the Green Line northward from Lechmere Station in two branches that will terminate in Medford and Somerville, respectively. The Medford train station on College Avenue will be called "Medford/Tufts," a name Tufts chose with the MBTA in exchange for $2 million over 10 years.

The Union Square Branch of the GLX will terminate at Union Square in Somerville, while the Medford Branch will travel through East Somerville, Gilman Square, Magoun Square and Ball Square before terminating at College Avenue in Medford. Terry McCarthy, deputy manager of the GLX project, provided some insight into the completion dates of each branch. 

“The Union Branch connecting Union Square to Lechmere and North Station is expected to be servicing the public by spring of 2022,” McCarthy wrote in an email to the Daily. However, McCarthy also explained that the Medford Branch will not be completed until summer 2022.

The new line will provide easier access to Tufts’ campuses in Medford/Somerville, Chinatown and Fenway according to Rocco DiRico, the university's executive director of government and community relations.

“Students will also be able to get to jobs, internships, sporting events and cultural institutions via mass transit," DiRico wrote in an email to the Daily.

CommonWealth Magazine reported in June 2021 that although the estimated cost of the project increased from $2 billion to $3 billion during its early stages, the GLX is now expected to come in under budget at a cost of $2.3 billion. At this price point, the MBTA will be able to pay the cities of Somerville and Cambridge back a combined total of $75 million that they invested into the project.

The MBTA's vision for the GLX is to increase transit options in Medford and Somerville, reduce car traffic and contribute to local sustainability and urban redevelopment initiatives, according to its website.

One challenge of constructing the GLX, including the Medford/Tufts station, is that both branches are being built on active commuter rail lines. The Union Square branch closely parallels the Fitchburg Commuter Rail tracks, while the Medford branch follows the Lowell Commuter Rail right of way. 

“The physical space to complete work inside the work zones is extremely tight." McCarthy wrote in an email to the Daily. “The Lowell Commuter Rail Line, which also carries freight at night, had to be moved twice without interrupting service. This feat left limited time slots to get the work done.”

The corner of Boston Avenue and College Avenue has been busy this past year with simultaneous construction of the Joyce Cummings Center, the Medford/Tufts MBTA station and the footbridge connecting the two, requiring extensive coordination between Tufts, the MBTA and the City of Medford.

“Tufts University, the GLX, and the City of Medford have been in constant communication throughout both projects," DiRico wrote.

Ruth Bennett, director of strategic capital programs at Tufts, explained that the Cummings Center construction did not interfere with GLX construction.

Like many ongoing construction projects, the GLX has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“GLX was affected by supply chain delays and labor resource issues,” McCarthy wrote.

DiRico discussed how the GLX will prove useful to the Tufts community.

“With over 2,000 employees living in Green Line communities, it will enable many of them to use mass transit to get to and from work each day," he wrote. "Over 70,000 people visit Tufts each year and they now will have the option of taking the MBTA to get here.”