Somerville Community Path, An Ideal Shortcut, Won’t Open During Orange Line Shutdown

A Green Line train passes over the viaduct over the future Community Path west of Lechmere Station
The future Community Path, which is still closed for construction until the Green Line's longer Medford branch opens later this year, will continue west of Lechmere beyond the construction fence pictured here. The path will travel over the commuter rail tracks on a long, high viaduct into East Somerville.

Its years-long construction is nearly complete, and it’s a tantalizing shortcut for bicycle riders and pedestrians trying to navigate East Somerville during the month-long shutdown of the Orange and Green Lines.

But the Somerville Community Path will nevertheless remain closed to bike and pedestrian traffic for the duration of this month’s subway shutdown, according to MBTA officials.

The East Somerville segment of the Somerville Community Path is being built in conjunction with the Green Line Extension’s Medford Branch, whose opening date has been pushed back numerous times (at the beginning of June, the project was scheduled to be done by “late summer,” but earlier this month the T pushed back the opening date ’til “late November”).

While a good deal of work still remains to be done on the project’s new stations, neighbors have observed that the path itself is mostly finished, and appears to be largely ready to ride.

Fresh pavement and lighting have been installed on many segments since this spring, and since then, several intrepid explorers have been on the under-construction path and shared photos on social media.

The T has previously said that the Community Path would remain closed until the adjacent rail line is finished so that construction crews can use the pathway to access to the tracks, but that’s not an issue on the high “Red Bridge” viaduct that carries the path over the Green Line tracks between the Inner Belt and Lechmere districts.

Without that bridge, most Somerville pedestrians and bicycle riders heading toward downtown Boston or Kendall Square must take a longer detour to the west, and cross the notorious McGrath Highway twice:

A map showing the MBTA's recommended bike route through East Somerville for the Orange Line closure (in blue) compared to the more direct route of the under-construction Somerville Community Path (red dashed line).
The MBTA’s recommended bike route through East Somerville for the Orange Line closure (in blue) compared to the more direct route of the under-construction Somerville Community Path (red dashed line).

MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told StreetsblogMASS that “unfortunately, (the path) won’t be ready within the next 27 days” while the Orange Line and Union Square branch of the Green Line remain closed.

The Community Path “still requires work on safety railings, lighting, final surfacing,” wrote Pesaturo. “Also, crews that would help with expediting and prioritizing that work are focused on the work associated with opening the Medford Branch.”

When it’s complete, the new Community Path will create a nearly-continuous off-street trail between Charlestown in Boston, Somerville, and North Cambridge. It is also the easternmost segment in the much larger Massachusetts Central Rail Trail project, a proposed 104-mile path from Boston to Northampton.

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