In 1990, state officials promised city residents they would complete the extension through Somerville and into Medford as a way to offset air pollution caused by the Big Dig. In 2005, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) sued the state because it had not taken the necessary steps to complete the project on time. In November 2006, CLF and the state settled and agreed on a binding commitment to complete the project by 2011. That commitment was pushed back to 2014.
Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn said at a press conference in the summer, he recalls the extension being proposed as far back as the 1970s.
And in August, state officials floated the idea that the project could be delayed longer because of money problems at the MBTA. However that changed when, after an outcry from city officials such as Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, Governor Deval Patrick stood in Gilman Square and pledged the project would receive full state funding and be completed by 2014.
This week more encouraging news about the project came when Patrick signed into law a $3.5 billion transportation bond bill that includes the $600 million necessary to fund the Green Line extension. The bond bill had previously been approved by both the state Senate and the state House of Representatives.
“This is a landmark step toward realizing the long awaited goal of extending Green Line trolley service through Somerville and into Medford,” Curtatone said. “Our residents and businesses have waited far too long for this essential public transportation upgrade and I am excited to say the Green Line Extension is finally coming to Somerville.”
The project is an extension of Green Line service from Lechmere Station and will create six new stops including the Brickbottom neighborhood, Union Square, Gilman Square, Magoun Square, Ball Square and Tufts University.
Today four sets of train tracks carry eight rail lines through Somerville neighborhoods yet the city has only a single train station, in Davis Square. “For far too long the residents of Somerville have lived with the burden of mass transit cutting through their neighborhoods but never providing service within the city,” Curtatone said.
The extension of the Green Line from Lechmere through the city has attracted wide, almost unanimous, support in Somerville. Curtatone said he has yet to speak with a resident who opposes the move. Alderman-at-Large William A. White said he believes the rare consensus is the result of residents witnessing the positive effects the Red Line station's arrival 1984 in Davis Square had on that neighborhood.
Members of the city's state delegation lauded Patrick's funding this week.
“Bringing the Green Line to Somerville has been a priority for the city and for the delegation for many years," said state Senator Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville. “The Green Line will allow Somerville residents much easier access to Boston and will allow people from outside of Somerville easier access to the many wonderful restaurants and businesses that Somerville has to offer.” “I am delighted that we were able to get the full $600 million for the Green Line Extension into the Transportation Bond Bill, and persuade three legislative committees to keep it there, uncut. I'm looking forward to the challenge of getting the project built on time,” said state Representative Denise Provost, D-Somerville.
Patrick's administration will seek federal funding to cover some of the extension's costs but the money in the bond bill ensures there will be no delay in the project, according to city officials.