The MBTA said last August that the new Medford branch of the Green Line would open in late November. Halfway into the month, there’s still no word on when service begins.
The MBTA “expects to have a date for the start of service by the end of the week,” spokesman Joe Pesaturo wrote in an email Tuesday. He did not say whether that start date was expected to come before the end of the month.
The line was originally slated to start carrying passengers in December 2021, but that date has been repeatedly pushed back. Once completed, the new line is planned to accommodate more than 50,000 riders daily.
“Work crews are finishing up some punch-list items, and various infrastructure components are being tested while Green Line trolley operators continue to receive training and instructions for providing service on the new branch,” Pesaturo said in a separate email. He did not specify what construction was left or how long those finishing changes might take.
The project’s website still lists a planned start in November 2022. In August, the MBTA announced that the project was delayed by a loss of safety and operation crews as additional workers were needed to address issues raised in a Federal Transit Administration report.
Laurel Ruma, a Green Line Extension citizen representative who communicates with residents around the Medford and Tufts University stop, said she heard from the MBTA last week that the November start date is still the plan.
“The finishing touches are clearly being made, [and] the trains are running for testing quite frequently,” Ruma said. “I think people are encouraged that we are at this final stage, finally. People are also, including myself, extraordinarily impatient, and the lack of communication has been very frustrating.”
She said the repeated delays have been a bother for riders, but she understands the need for safety, which seems to be the MBTA’s “number one priority.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, test trains were running both ways between College Avenue Station in Medford and the East Somerville Station. At those and the new Ball Square, Magoun Square, and Gilman Square stations, cones and tape were still up, light tools were scattered, and ticket kiosks were still covered in plastic and cardboard coverings. But aside from removing fences, driving away heavy equipment, and sweeping walkways, little additional work appeared necessary.
Employees at an auto shop that abuts the tracks at East Somerville Station said they have not seen heavy machinery at the site in weeks. Jim Silva, the representative from Medford for the Ball Square Station, said he sees the test trains every morning, but he has been disappointed with communication from the MBTA, which seems not to recognize riders’ needs.
“They just keep saying the end of November,” Silva said. “I think there is this incredible lack of understanding what your customers are about and what their expectations are.”
Silva and Ruma said they expect the T to follow through on the November deadline, but Ruma said she did not expect the first trains to run at full-speed.
“I wish I could be so optimistic, but I think the MBTA has shown that it needs a lot of the riding public’s patience, regardless of what the project or line may be,” Ruma said. “I do not anticipate 100 percent runtime on opening day.”
Silva said that many would-be riders of the extended Green Line were also impacted by the Orange Line’s month-long shut-down as well as the surprise four-week closure of the Green Line’s extension to Union Square last summer.
“There are people that depend on this particular transit to get around, to live their lives,” he said. “There’s no improvement in [the] process.”
Daniel Kool can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dekool01.