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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 22, 2024

Inside the GLX opening: Senators, mayors, students gather for landmark event

From left: MA governor Charlie Baker, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Tony Monaco prepare to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the GLX on Dec. 12, 2022.

The Medford/Tufts branch of the Green Line Extension opened on Dec. 12 at roughly 4:30 a.m. following years of construction and several delays. The extension now connects the Medford/Somerville campus to East Somerville and Boston.

Dozens of Tufts students flocked to the new Medford/Tufts station before sunrise, waiting in sub-freezing weather in hopes of catching a ride on the first passenger trolley to leave the station. Then-MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak greeted the crowd before the gate to the station opened, and prospective riders rushed through to the platform.

Among the riders on the first Green Line trip were Katjana Ballantyne and Joseph Curtatone, the current and former mayor of Somerville, respectively, along with Poftak.

Later in the morning, government leaders gathered with University President Anthony Monaco at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the station. Attendees included Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, then-Massachussets Governor Charlie Baker and U.S. Congresswoman Katherine Clark, the new House Minority Whip for Democrats.

Following the ribbon-cutting, Markey spoke with the Daily about the significance of the GLX and its role in creating a Green New Deal.

“Today is historic … this is a day when … public transportation is taking a front row seat,” Markey told the Daily. “We have to move away from highways and move more towards transit.”

Local and national government leaders then gathered with Monaco and delivered remarks in the lobby of the Joyce Cummings Center to celebrate the long-awaited opening.

“Today’s celebration is the result of decades of hard work and collaboration by local officials, community members and the university,” Monaco said in his speech. “In addition to linking our Medford, Somerville, Boston Health Sciences and SMFA campuses to each other, it also connects Tufts to other key institutions in the greater Boston area. … This Green Line Extension is about education, innovation and collaboration.”

Poftak and Baker then delivered remarks, thanking various government officials for their work in bringing the GLX to fruition. Afterwards, Warren took to the podium to express her elation at the long-awaited opening.

“I’ve just got one word: finally,” Warren said.

Warren used her speech to celebrate the work of community activists but also called for more investment in transportation.

“Extending the Green Line is great, but we need a lot more extensions — and we can't wait two decades for every single one of them to come online,” Warren said.

In his speech to attendees, Markey spoke about the project’s role in fighting climate change.

“We share common goals: to make public transit a public good, to reduce congestion on our roads and clean the air we breathe, to allow anyone — regardless of income or geography — to travel safely, reliably, affordably and sustainably,” he said.

The Mass. Department of Transportation anticipates that the GLX’s daily ridership will reach 45,000 per day by 2030, carrying riders to jobs and key stops like Somerville High School and the CambridgeSide mall near Lechmere.

From the Medford/Tufts station, the GLX passes through Ball Square, Magoun Square, Gilman Square and East Somerville before ending at Lechmere — where riders may choose to continue riding into Boston.

The GLX has also sparked controversy, however, as increasing rents stir fears of gentrification in East Somerville. As government officials walked from the Medford/Tufts station to the Joyce Cummings Center for the opening celebration, protestors chanted to draw awareness to the displacement of lower-income residents.

Ballantyne addressed these concerns in her speech at the Joyce Cummings Center.

“There’s still more visioning and work to be done for better access to local jobs, for housing as a human right … and we must double down on ongoing efforts to address displacement and gentrification,” Ballantyne said.

Chloe Courtney Bohl contributed reporting to this article.

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