After a Somerville business and resident group expressed dismay about the state closing down the Union Square station during one of the area’s most popular festivals, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will now offer shuttle bus service during the city’s What the Fluff festival later this month.
MassDOT is closing the new Green Line extension between Lechmere and Union Square stations starting on Sept. 18 to repair the Squires Bridge on McGrath Highway that carries car traffic over the Green Line tracks. It remains unclear why the bridge repairs were not made before the long awaited Green Line extension to Union Square opened in March of last year.
Plans for the shut down of the Green Line announced by MassDOT last month did not include any shuttle bus service. Now, MassDOT said it will provide three shuttle buses between East Somerville Station on the Medford branch and Union Square Station on Sept. 23 from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for the Fluff Festival after the outcry, but will not provide shuttle buses for the rest of the closure.
The 25-day closure is shorter than originally planned. In June, the MBTA announced the Union Square branch would be closed for 42 days for the bridge repairs. The Healey administration reversed course less than a week later, postponing the work until September.
MassDOT has encouraged Green Line riders to take the MBTA 86, 87, 91, or CT2 bus routes. Service on all of the suggested alternative bus routes remains below pre-pandemic levels, except on the 86, T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said previously. MassDOT is holding the first of several public meetings about the closure at the central branch of Somerville Public Library on Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m.
The Union Square branch isn’t the only part of the Green Line being shut down in September.
The Green Line between North Station and Government Center Station will also close for 25 days starting on Sept. 18, according to the MBTA, to allow for the continued demolition of Government Center Garage by a private developer. The MBTA will not provide shuttle buses there either.
The What the Fluff festival, which draws more than 20,000 people to Union Square, has been held in September for the last 18 years and is the most popular event in the busy commercial district, said Union Square Main Streets executive director Jessica Eshleman, who advocated for the shuttle bus service. The newly opened Green Line extension to Union Square was shut down last year during the event for repairs.
Eshleman said she is thrilled that MassDOT will be providing the shuttle buses after her group’s urging. She worked with state Representative Mike Connolly, who represents parts of Somerville, and Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne to make the change happen, she said.
“While of course the ideal would be uninterrupted Green Line service . . . We are really thrilled that a workable compromise could be found,” she said, noting the shuttle buses will be fully accessible.
The other branch of the Green Line extension, which runs to Medford, won’t be impacted by the Union Square closure.