Two weeks after the long-awaited launch of Green Line service to Somerville’s Union Square, the five new stations on the second, much longer branch of the Green Line extension are still heavy construction zones.
When construction began on both branches of the Green Line extension in 2018, they were set to open in December 2021. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and the $2.3 billion project faced a series of delays. Last year, the MBTA pushed back the Union Square branch opening to March 2022, citing complications in building its substations, and the delivery date on the Medford branch to May 2022, citing supply chain impacts from the pandemic.
This year the T moved the date back again, and agency spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the branch is slated to open by end of summer, but did not give a specific date.
“The project is on track to begin passenger service on the Medford branch this summer,” he said via e-mail.
Pesaturo said crews are in the final stages of electrical work at each of the five new stations along the Medford branch: College Avenue, Ball Square, Magoun Square, Gilman Square, and East Somerville.
On a recent weekday at the Ball Square station, near Boston Avenue and Broadway, a forklift entered the gravel-filled area next to the station. The newly built elevator shaft is in place, as well as the station walkway to the street level.
Workers donned hard hats. One cut plywood with an electric saw. Another measured sections of track, taking photos on a tablet.
“I’m optimistic,” said one worker about the station opening this summer. He stood inside a basket at the top of an extendable arm attached to a pickup truck below, installing power cables on two-story posts along the tracks.
The Green Line extension, as a whole, has faced a seemingly endless series of delays since it was first seriously considered more than three decades ago.
The state first promised to extend the Green Line to Tufts University in 1990 as part of an agreement with the Conservation Law Foundation, a legal advocacy group, to mitigate the environmental impacts of the Big Dig, which buried Interstate 93 beneath the center of the city. The foundation sued the state in 2005, accusing it of stalling the project, and settled in 2007 when the government agreed to complete it by 2014.
The next year, the state nearly scrapped the project when its budget ballooned to $3 billion. But the MBTA worked to cut costs and got approval from its board to move forward with a smaller budget in 2017.
The MBTA opened the first, smaller branch of the extension to Union Square in Somerville on March 21.
But work continues on the Tufts branch, and advocates say its opening, 32 years in the making, can’t come soon enough.
“Beyond the fact that the MBTA has committed to this project for three decades, the five new train stations are going to make the majority of people in Somerville and Medford within walking distance of trains,” said Staci Rubin, vice president of environmental justice at the Conservation Law Foundation. “It’s important for us to get to our climate targets, and for people to be able to rely on a public transit system that has forgotten them for so long.”
Pesaturo said progress on the five stations has been “advancing at a good pace in recent months.”
The new Magoun Square Station is tucked next to the Windsor at Maxwell’s Green, a luxury residential complex where a two-bedroom is renting for more than $4,000.
On a recent weekday, workers installed the entrance gate to the station on Lowell Street, unfurling and removing cardboard packaging from the metal slats.
The pedestrian bridge on the other side of the gate, with its archway of lighting leading to the main station, looks largely complete. Clocks that will tell passengers when the next trolley arrives hang ready in place.
Asked if these are final touches, a worker holding a spool of wiring laughed.
“No,” he said. “But we’re getting there.”
Taylor Dolven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.