The MBTA’s long-awaited Medford branch, part of the $2.3 billion Green Line Extension, will open Dec. 12, General Manager Steve Poftak announced at a Thursday board meeting.
Once completed, the new line is planned to accommodate more than 50,000 riders daily.
In August, the MBTA announced that the line — originally slated for a December 2021 opening — would open late November.
“We had some additional work we wanted to get done. We also wanted to be sure that we were doing everything we needed to do, not only on the Medford branch, but across our system,” Poftak told the board. “So we’re taking a few extra days.”
Poftak said the MBTA has been running a demonstration of service, with empty trains, for weeks, and highlighted two new traction power substations at Pearl Street and Ball Square that feed the Medford line.
“I look forward to seeing you all at approximately 4:45 a.m. for the grand opening of service,” Poftak said.
The Green Line’s Medford extension — which stops at College Avenue, Ball Square, Magoun Square, Gilman Square, and East Somerville stations — is anticipated to carry riders on more than 50,000 trips each day and give riders as far as Tufts University an easier conduit into downtown Boston.
On Monday, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo told the Globe that workers were tackling “punch-list items,” but did not give details. At Thursday’s meeting, Poftak said the delays were necessary to ensure safety, but did not go deeper.
Poftak praised administrators and work crews for their commitment to “a project that was not going to happen and that was revived.” An extended Green Line route — once planned to stretch as far as Route 16, Mystic Valley Parkway — has been on the table for decades.
Laurel Ruma, a Green Line Extension citizen representative who communicates with residents around the Medford and Tufts University stop, said she had heard nothing before Thursday’s announcement, which was news to her.
“We’re very happy, very excited,” Ruma said. “We’re not surprised that they weren’t going to make the end of November date. It seems pretty unlikely with the Thanksgiving holiday and all the work that still needs to be done at the stations.”
She said the Tufts/Medford line still needed fences removed, sidewalks poured, and “a lollipop” ― the circular, illuminated “T” sign that signals a station ― erected.
Ruma said she plans to be on that first train alongside Poftak, and said she expects other riders to mark their calendars, calling the opening a “huge accomplishment.”
“There will be a lot of us on that first train. I can guarantee that the excitement is real,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
At that same meeting, the MBTA Board of Directors unanimously approved a revised bus map that would increase the scope and frequency of bus service around Boston, including 30 routes planned to have buses arrive at least every 15 minutes, and approved new fare-evasion measures that still need approval from the secretary of state.
The board approved implementation of the plan starting in Fiscal Year 2023, which would kick off a series of changes to service implemented in stages, slated to end in 2028.
The changes come amid an ongoing shortage of bus drivers, which has prompted repeated service cuts since December. Poftak said bus ridership is at about 75 percent of its pre-pandemic numbers.
Doug Johnson, transportation planner for the MBTA, said the new route system will need an additional 440 drivers to sustain its proposed 25 percent increase in service. He said the last figures he saw, about two weeks ago, showed a deficit of about 300 drivers, meaning the T will need to hire about 700 individuals over the next five years.
Under the new fare-evasion regulations, a first offense will earn a formal written warning before a citation is issued. First, second, and third citations would be $50, and later citations would issue fines of $100 — with higher fines for fraudulent use of a reduced-fare credential. The T is not currently issuing any citations for evasion after changes to a state law starting in 2021.
Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn told the Globe in a phone interview that she was happy to see the Green Line open, but said it could not make up for the loss of bus service planned for west and north Medford, which has much of the city’s low and middle-income residents.
“The Green Line Extension is going to help us tremendously, especially in the hillside in South Medford,” Lungo-Koehn said. “But it doesn’t fix our concerns with regards to the better bus network redesign.”