A Tour of Somerville Community Road Construction and the New Light Rail Line – StreetsblogMASS
During last week’s NACTO conference in Boston, attendees left the Hynes Convention Center each morning for “walks” that offered tours of some of the area’s pedestrian, bike, and transit infrastructure.
One of these walkshops offered a guided tour of the construction of the extension of the Somerville Community Road, which is nearing the end of its construction by the contractors in charge of the extension project of the green line. As the community path will provide a primary access point to several stations along the new Medford branch of the Green Line, the path is expected to be open when the new light rail line opens to passengers later this year.
Our tour covered approximately 0.6 miles on the new path, from the Brickbottom neighborhood, just east of the future East Somerville Green Line station, to Medford Street, behind the new Somerville High School. But the full scheme will span just over two miles and stretch from the Community Path’s current terminus at Lowell Street to Lechmere station across the city line in Cambridge:
One of the guides for the walk was Karen Molloy, a leading figure in the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP) who has been advocating for more than a decade for the community road extension to be included in the plan to expand the green line.
In 2015 and 2016, when the costs of the Green Line extension were spiraling out of control, the Community Road extension was on the chopping block, but Molloy, local officials and hundreds of other advocates lobbied for it. remains within the scope of the project.
Last week’s tour was Molloy’s first time walking the new path, and she said it was a moving experience to finally see the results of her advocacy firsthand.
“So many people worked so hard to make this happen,” Molloy said.
However, the cost-cutting process left some desired conveniences behind.
For example, there won’t be consistent light sources along the path when opening (you’ll see streetlights along the path in some of the photos above, but not others).
Viola Augustin, the town of Somerville liaison for the Green Line Extension Project, says the town was able to negotiate the installation of electrical conduit the entire way, and she hopes the town will be able to install additional lighting after the Green Line Line project is officially complete.
The other striking feature of the community road in its present form is the lack of shade or greenery – a marked contrast to the existing community road west of Lowell Street.
Last week’s tour was on a balmy morning with temperatures around 70 degrees, but with no relief from the sun it was much warmer.
Project leaders said the MBTA was reluctant to allow trees near its tracks, where falling branches can wreak havoc with the overhead catenary cables that will power Green Line trains. But Augustin hopes the T will make it possible to plant smaller trees in places where the risk of this happening would be low.
City of Somerville officials are currently negotiating these and other details as part of a long-term maintenance agreement for the new path with the MBTA, which will continue to own the land the path is on once construction completed.