Opening Day: The Green Line Arrives In Medford

A large crowd of people celebrate the Green Line extension's opening day outside a snowy Ball Square station while some kids play on a snowy hillside next to the station entrance.
Kids play on the snowy hillside at Ball Square Green Line station on opening day of the Green Line Extension's Medford Branch.
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At 4:51 this morning, a packed Green Line train rang its bell and started rolling south from the new Medford/Tufts station to officially open the Green Line Extension’s Medford Branch to passenger service after decades’ worth of planning and delays.

The pre-dawn opening brought out hundreds of transit enthusiasts – including many Tufts students – to the new stations along the line on Monday morning. Among the attendees were Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne, former Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, and numerous municipal transit and transportation officials.

Later in the morning, at a more reasonable hour, another crowd gathered at Joyce Cummings Center at Tufts University for a speaking program packed with city, state and federal officials continuing the festivities and calling for more improvements to our transit system.

With the Tufts/Medford station as a backdrop, Senator Elizabeth Warren began her speech with an emphatic, “Finally! Finally!”

“This is a great project and it will give us more transportation capacity. Capacity, frankly, that we’ve needed for over half a century. The extension of the Green Line will increase ridership by 50,000 rides a day. That is a measure of how badly we needed it,” she continued.

Passengers walk along a snow-covered platform next to a stopped Green Line train. Signs indicate that this is Ball Square station.
Green Line riders disembark at the new Ball Square station on Dec. 12, 2022, the opening day of the Green Line Extension’s Medford Branch.

“Let me be clear, we need to do better. We need a transportation system that works and that means planning for the future…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,” she said as the audience cheered and clapped in agreement.

Sen. Warren called out the region’s need for new clean buses, additional bike lanes, east-west rail, and electrifying the commuter rail network – an issue raised by both Massachusetts Senators this past October during a field hearing with MBTA management.

Senator Ed Markey called the new train line a critical step towards “a green new deal future in greater Boston,” he said.

“This is the dawn of a new green era,” he concluded.

Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne extended her appreciation to several community groups involved throughout the project’s timeline including theMystic Valley Task Force, Friends of the Community Path, Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance.

Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne, wearing a gray winter coat, passes out souvenir buttons to a crowd of MBTA passengers, also wearing winter overcoats.
Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne passes out souvenir buttons to commemorate the open of the Green Line Extension’s Medford Branch at Ball Square Green Line station early on Monday morning, Dec. 12, 2022.

But like Warren, Ballantyne is ready for more change.

“We must envision a world class public transit system that will advance the commonwealth’s economic competitiveness, social progress, climate action agenda. Today we celebrate, today we ride. But tomorrow we must continue the work,” said Mayor Ballantyne.

Another long-awaited component of the project – a parallel shared-use path that will extend Somerville’s Community Path from its current terminus at Lowell Street all the way to Lechmere in Cambridge – is still under construction, but is expected to open soon.

“Crews are finishing up some final punch list items (on the path),” wrote MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo via email on Monday. “The T is coordinating with the city of Somerville on an opening date.”

Photos: A Construction Tour of Somerville’s Community Path and New Light Rail Line

When it does open, bicycle users and pedestrians will be able to enjoy a continuous off-street pathway between Davis Square and Paul Revere Park on the banks of the Charles River in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood.

The Green Line Extension project – in its modern incarnation – has been in the works since 1991, when the commonwealth promised to build the new light rail line and a suite of other transit improvements to settle a lawsuit from the Conservation Law Foundation over emissions from the “Big Dig” highway expansion (editor’s note: the Conservation Law Foundation is a fiscal sponsor of StreetsblogMASS).

Under the terms of that settlement, the “Green Line Extension to Ball Square/Tufts University” was to have been completed by Dec. 31, 2011.

 

Several other promises from that settlement – like an extension of the Blue Line to Charles/MGH station to link the Red and Blue Lines (a project whose original deadline would have had it finished by the end of 2011) and restoration of the Green Line’s Arborway segment on the E branch (scheduled to be re-opened by the end of 1997) remain unfulfilled over 30 years later.

 

 

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