New Lechmere Station Design Progressing, Concerns Linger About McGrath Crossing, Bus Routes

On the evening of Wednesday, December 14th, residents, activists, representatives from NorthPoint developer HYM, and architects and planners from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation gathered at the Kennedy-Longfellow school to discuss the latest changes and developments in the design of the new Lechmere Station.

From the changes that have been made as the station design has evolved, it is clear that the public design process has produced a station design much more in line with the community’s vision of an ideal Lechmere station. The station entrance has been moved to a location more equally accessible by East Cambridge residents. What was a narrow space between the station and McGrath has been widened to 30 feet, a change enabled by alterations to the path of First Street. The design of the station has been altered to promote a more even flow of pedestrians coming from all directions, and a more direct route to the Lechmere bus stop when crossing from East Cambridge.

While these changes are strong steps forward, it is clear from the questions and comments directed toward MassDOT at the end of the meeting that a number of concerns about pedestrian safety and access have not yet been assuaged by station designers. There is still a long pedestrian crosswalk that must traverse a busy section of the McGrath Highway/Boulevard. Developer HYM has made a number of suggestions to MassDOT about how this crossing can be approached in a way that maximizes pedestrian safety and comfort. Their suggestions include using different lighting and paving elements at the intersection of McGrath and First Street to encourage drivers to slow down and eliminating the right hand turn lane from the inbound side of McGrath. I am looking forward to seeing what MassDOT puts forward in reaction to these suggested improvements.

Another concern that was voiced by several members of the meeting’s audience was that bus access to East Cambridge will be diminished by the relocation of the station. Moving Lechmere across McGrath will require buses to turn off of Cambridge Street at Third Street, and reroute buses away from destinations like the Courthouse. Access to buses, particularly for the elderly and disabled, is a primary concern of mine, and I am interested to see how these concerns will be addressed.

As a final part of the meeting, MassDOT officials briefly discussed the potential for phased construction of the Green Line Extension and what that will mean for Lechmere’s completion date. Because of Lechmere’s placement in an early construction phase, the new station could be open in early 2017, well ahead of the projected 2019 date for the completion of the entire extension. This is very exciting news, and I will be pushing for a commitment from MassDOT to begin phased construction as soon as possible.

MassDOT has also announced that there will be a number of meetings coming up in the near future. Be on the lookout for Washington Street and Union Square station design meetings in late January, and meetings about the Maintenance Facility and Community Path in early April. I will post more detailed meeting information on my community blog as soon as it is available.

Tomorrow: Mock Green Line Extension Groundbreaking

Somerville High School – map

A mock groundbreaking and demonstration will be held tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Somerville High School before the Green Line Extension public meeting that is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The goal of the mock groundbreaking is to protest the recently announced delays in the target completion date for the Green Line Extension project and to show that the citizens of Somerville, Medford, and Cambridge and their representatives are ready for work to begin now.

All are invited to attend the rally and public hearing that will follow. If you believe that the Green Line Extension needs to be a top priority of the state, I would encourage you to turn out tomorrow and show how shovel-ready our community is.

The Green Line Extension is a legally mandated, desperately needed public transportation project and is part of a commitment that Massachusetts has made to bring a level of environmental justice to communities that have been negatively impacted by the Big Dig. The recent announcement by MassDOT that the Green Line Extension will be delayed 5 years or more past its scheduled 2015 completion date is not acceptable, and has been met by a great deal of resistance from both the public and their elected representatives.

I encourage you to join Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, State Senator Pat Jehlen, State Representative Denise Provost, myself, and others that will be in attendance for the event. Many community groups from Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, and across Massachusetts will also be in attendance, including the Conservation Law Foundation, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, East Cambridge Planning Team, Livable Streets Alliance, MASSPIRG, the Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance, and others, many of which have been intimately involved with the Green Line Extension project from the very beginning. It is important that we demonstrate the need for this project to get back on track. I hope to see you there.

Multi-year Delays Expected in Green Line Extension Project

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has announced that the Green Line Extension, which was trending towards completion in October of 2015, is now expected to be delayed until 2018 at the earliest, and possibly until as late as 2020. In its annual State Implementation Plan (SIP) Status Report, MassDOT has declared that it will formally petition the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the Green Line Extension’s implementation, for a delay.

This comes as very disappointing news. The Green Line Extension is both a federally mandated component of Massachusetts’ State Implementation Plan for compliance with the Clean Air Act, and required mitigation for the effects of the Big Dig project. In order to bring the Massachusetts within compliance of the Clean Air Act, the Green Line Extension must be completed before December 31, 2014, or else the state will risk losing federal funding for any other transportation projects. Beyond being required by law, extending the MBTA Green Line through Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford is a key component of bringing long-overdue environmental justice to cities and its citizens.

MassDOT and the MBTA must now compile a list of reduction offset measures that will be implemented in order to mitigate the project’s delay. These measures will be established through a process that includes public input, and it is my hope that they will bring a meaningful level of environmental justice to the communities that the Green Line Extension will serve while the project is delayed.

In response to these developments, I will be meeting with members of the Green Line legislative delegation, Mayor Curtatone, and officials from MassDOT and the Patrick administration with the goal of finding more information about precisely why the delay is necessary, and to discuss how this delay will impact various phases of the project, such as the relocation of Lechmere Station.

I will be sure to provide an update about what the next steps are as soon as possible. As always, I welcome your input in the comments section below.

Key Green Line Extension Deal Reached

Somerville/Cambridge – Map

There have been some important new developments this month in the path to constructing the Green Line Extension.

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation approved a landmark deal between the MBTA and Pan Am Railways that sets the stage for the construction of the Green Line Extension. This agreement brings the track, right of way, and other land that the MBTA will need to complete the Green Line Extension under its control.


The Green Line Extension will provide public transit to chronically under served areas.

Perhaps most importantly, this agreement will enable the MBTA to construct the planned new Lechmere Station. While I have been slightly apprehensive about plans to move Lechmere station to the other side of the O’Brien Highway, this is an important and necessary step in the process of constructing the Green Line Extension. It has been a priority of the MBTA, MassDOT, community groups and state and local officials to ensure that final plans for the station will include robust pedestrian safety protections. I am certain that all parties will be able to work together effectively to agree upon a plan that is not only very safe, but something that East Cambridge can be proud of.

MassDOT and the MBTA are to be commended for also extracting a significant cost savings for the overall project through the deal with Pan Am. While the state had originally planned to pay around $18 million for the railroad track and property rights, it ended up making the deal with Pan Am for $5.5 million less. While not a part of the land agreement, Pan Am has also agreed to take on the cost of improving the streets and sidewalks around the Lechmere area, saving Massachusetts an estimated $9 million.

I am pleased to see the MBTA and MassDOT making steady progress on the Green Line Extension. The vision of a safe, efficient, and clean means of public transportation running through East Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford is something that many, many people have devoted a great amount of time, energy, and hard work to. The agreement with Pan Am is a strong step forward on the path to making this vision a reality, and I am looking forward to working with transportation officials to make sure our collective efforts stay on track.

I will be continuing to update this blog with information about the Green Line Extension and other transportation-related news, so stay tuned!

Green Line Environmental Impact Report Comments

This past Thursday I submitted my letter with official comments regarding the Green Line Extension Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) to Secretary Ian Bowles of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Over the course of this public comment period, I have heard from hundreds of constituents in the 26th Middlesex District. I have also been consulting with MassDOT, Mayor Curtatone’s office, The Cambridge City Manager’s office, my colleagues, and a variety of community and environmental organizations to determine the best way to bring the Green Line Extension to Cambridge and Somerville.

The important points:

  • Option L for the maintenance facility, not Yard 8 – As I have put forward in a previous post, the decision of where to place a maintenance facility is extremely important to the future development in East Somerville. Yard 8, the current preferred alternative from MassDOT, is an unacceptable option. Instead of placing the facility next to the Brickbottom Artists residence, the facility should be placed next to the existing Boston Engine Terminal as described in Option L.
  • Increased pedestrian access – Both the new Lechmere station and Brickbottom should have safe alternatives for pedestrian access. “The relocation of Lechmere station across the McGrath/O’Brien Highway to the Northpoint parcel means that thousands of commuters from East Cambridge will now be required to cross a major, multi-lane highway to access the Green Line. It is imperative that the protection of these commuters is a top priority for the Commonwealth, and that we ensure that pedestrian access from the south of McGrath is consistently and reliably safe.”
  • Additional mitigation for Glass Factory residents“Additional planning and mitigation also needs to be considered for the residents of the Glass Factory Condos, where the elevated track will run within feet of their windows.”

Full letter below.

Click for full pdf