New Green Line Extension to shut down for a month; Medford branch opening delayed


BOSTON – Another shutdown affecting a T subway line is coming. The MBTA announced Friday that the recently opened Green Line Extension from Government Center to Union Square in Somerville will be replaced by temporary shuttle buses for 28 days between August 22 and September 18. 

It was also announced that the planned opening of the Green Line Extension’s Medford branch has been pushed back from late summer to late November of this year because more work is needed, including testing of the power systems.

The news comes just days after the state announced an unprecedented shutdown of the entire Orange Line from August 19 to September 19 for upgrades and repairs, which affects more than 100,000 trips a day and has riders concerned about how their commutes to work and school will be impacted.  

The MBTA said that the shutdown of the Green Line Extension, which was called “transformational” when it opened in March, is necessary for work to continue on a Government Center garage project, and to facilitate work on the Medford branch. Structural problems during the Government Center Parking Garage demolition forced the suspension of MBTA train service in a tunnel under the garage.  

“The temporary diversion of Union Branch riders onto shuttle buses will provide contractors with around-the-clock access to the tracks and overhead wire system, enabling them to safely and quickly complete work deemed critical to the opening of the new Medford Branch,” the MBTA said.

Green Line riders traveling between Government Center and Union Square will board free shuttle buses, which will stop at Lechmere Station and the Lechmere Station bus loop. 

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said one of the reasons for the Medford setback was that resources had to be reallocated “as a consequence of our work on the FTA special directive.” In June, the Federal Transit Administration directed the T to address staffing at the operations control center, improve safety protections in train yards, fix delayed track maintenance, and recertify MBTA workers.

Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn says her community relies on the Orange Line, and was hoping the Green Line Extension would help with the shutdown.

“What is going to happen, there will be large delays in commute times that will greatly impact our residents who are most vulnerable and need that service,” she said. “Get back to school, get to work, do errands and grocery shop. Now they have to wait until the end of November, a date that is highly concerning.”

Poftak also said plans for the Union branch shutdown were in the works before the Orange Line announcement, and the two “just happened to overlap.” He hopes that the end result is a better and faster experience for riders. 

“If we could’ve announced this earlier, we probably should have. Obviously we don’t like to do this on short notice, but this is important work,” Poftak said. “I know it is frustrating but this is necessary work and we want to be in a position to start re-opening service.”

One frustrated rider is Megan Colleran.

“It’s been a great way into the city rather than deal with parking,” she told WBZ-TV. “Now it’s frustrating but that’s the way the MBTA is lately.”

Gabriella Colmenares has her doubts about the shuttle buses.

“They don’t come as frequently, you don’t know when they’re coming, and there are three stacked up and if you don’t get on wait until the next one, whatever traffic allows,” she said.   

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Friday the city is meeting with the T to make sure there is clear signage to let riders know how they can get to their destination.

 “We are going to do everything that we can to make this as painless of a situation as possible, but it’s not going to be pretty for a couple weeks,” she said. 

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