Somerville Braces for Impact From Orange, Green Line Extension Shutdowns

"It’s nine days out. We need to find a solution,” Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne said Wednesday

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Those who live and work in Somerville, Massachusetts, are bracing for impact as they get ready to deal with two separate shutdowns on the MBTA.

Both the Orange Line and the new Green Line extension are closing around the same time, and city officials said they have hardly any time to prepare.

After hearing the Orange Line was closing for a month starting Aug. 19, commuter Nikki Scott thought she would just take the Green Line to her job at a hospital in Boston. Then the MBTA announced that branch is also closing for a month, starting Aug. 22.

"It's going to be a huge inconvenience," Scott said. "It's going to make my life a living hell."

The shutdowns leave commuters with no choice but to rely on shuttle buses, but the city still has no idea what those shuttle bus plans are going to look like.

"It's frustrating. I would say at this point, it's nine days out. We need to find a solution," Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne said.

Ballantyne said the city is working to set up dedicated bus lanes to help ease the traffic, but many of them will be running on state roads, and the city has no say about what happens on those.

"We can do our portion, but that's the smallest portion. We need the state to do theirs," the mayor said.

Rep. Mike Connolly, D-Somerville, is trying to help. He is asking the state to establish priority bus lanes on the Gilmore Bridge and on Route 28 from Somerville Avenue up to Lechmere, continuing across Charles River Dam Road.

"They are absolutely are bearing the burden, and some really serious questions need to be addressed by the T," Connolly said. "We need to prioritize these bus lanes for our transit riding public."

He was part of a briefing on the shutdowns Wednesday, but he still has many questions.

"I was surprised we didn't see any maps or renderings of what these shuttle buses would look like," he said.

The city of Somerville wants to put up signs and cones, and to set up traffic details to help ease congestion, but until there is a more detailed plan from the state, officials said all they can do is wait.

The MBTA still hasn't officially announced how the shutdowns will work, but said it is working "around-the-clock" to develop a solution. The agency said in a Twitter thread Wednesday that it is meeting internally, as well as with the state's Department of Transportation and local municipalities, to develop plans for how to move passengers around during these shutdowns.

"I just think it's hard when you're trying to plan for the future and plan what your commute to work is going to be, and I have an internship this fall, and so, like, I need to know what my options are going to be," commuter Madison Chau said.

Public transportation advocate Stacy Thompson, executive director of LivableStreets, said the MBTA should at least release the plan they have constructed so far.

"Having some of the basics about where the shuttle stops are and how people might be able to plug in would be really helpful right now," Thompson said.

The troubled transit authority is now in the process of finalizing details on the free shuttles that will replace service. Drivers will soon start test runs to ensure they're familiar with the stops ahead of the diversions kicking in. The T has also asked cities, including Boston, to install temporary bus lane to help mitigate additional traffic.

Here are the service changes you need to know about as the MBTA works on major repairs across the transit system.
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