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Starts & Stops

At last, Somerville’s getting the Green Line, but road closures come with it

The Green Line extension to Somerville has been delayed for years.MBTA

The Green Line is finally coming to Somerville. That’s the good part.

Now for the bad: it’s going to be a little ugly getting it there.

By early next year, the first of a series of disruptive road closures will occur in Somerville, when a bridge along the border with Medford is torn down to make more room for tracks below, and a new one won’t open for a year.

The Broadway bridge is one of the major thoroughfares in Somerville: more than 19,000 cars drive on the route each day, and it’s also a common route for cyclists.


Mark Niedergang, who represents the Ball Square neighborhood on the Somerville Board of Aldermen, said the city is still eager for the $2.3 billion transit project after years of delays — but the bridge closure will be a massive disruption.

“You’ve got to break eggs to make an omelet, but this is going to be very painful,” he said.

Niedergang and some neighbors are worried cut-through traffic will make local streets unsafe.

John Dalton, the MBTA executive overseeing the Green Line project, said the agency will help fund police details to guide cars through detours in Somerville and Medford. He said there’s “really no way around closing” the bridge for a prolonged period.

The entire structure will be replaced with a longer bridge, he said, and the work also involves building new drainage systems.

Down below, the T needs room not only for the new Green Line tracks, but also the commuter rail tracks on the Lowell line that already operate in the right of way. That service will keep operating during the road closure, he said.

Several other bridges in Somerville will close before the project is complete in late 2021, though for shorter periods because they are not as complex as Broadway.


Also, rebuilding an overhead rail bridge between Union and Sullivan squares will require two separate months-long closures on Washington Street, a major roadway leading to Charlestown.

“It’s just kind of the price of getting a transit system put into an urban environment,” Dalton said.

Back Bay to the future

Starts and Stops reader Daniel Kraft had some fun with out-of-date MBTA displays still hanging around the Back Bays Orange Line station: old maps that have multiple markings of places that no longer exist.

Kraft identified 10 separate locations noted on the map that have moved or been renamed, including the old Boston Police headquarters on Berkeley Street — now a hotel — and the New England Life Building, now called the Newbry. (It also listed the John Hancock Tower, which was more recently renamed 200 Clarendon — but does anybody not still call it the Hancock?)

Kraft was mostly bemused by the old map, though said he worried it could mislead tourists or infrequent visitors who don’t know the area.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the agency’s small sign department is usually focused on maps that show the transit system, not the surrounding neighborhood.

“Given all of the current needs to make upgrades and improvements across the entire transit system, neighborhood maps, unfortunately, have not been a primary focus of attention in recent years,” he said.

But a couple days later, Pesaturo said the agency had designed a new and updated map, and would install it at Back Bay in September.


Because of a reporter error, an earlier version of this article misstated when the new transit service will open.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.