Monday, June 24, 2024

Union Square Station on the MBTA green line closes for 42 days starting July 18. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The MBTA quietly announced a 42-day closing of the green line extension’s Union Square branch on Thursday, but representatives from Somerville are fighting back.

The transit agency announced the closing – without sharing on social media – from July 18 to Aug. 28 to allow for “critical repair work” on Squire’s Bridge. The MBTA is not offering shuttle buses to Union Square riders.

During the time service is suspended between Lechmere in Cambridge and Union Square in Somerville, riders can take either the 86 or 91 bus to the East Somerville T stop, state transit officials said. The 87 bus, boarded at Lechmere, can also take riders to the Union Square area.

State Rep. Mike Connolly tweeted a letter co-signed by state Reps. Christine Barber and Erika Uyterhoeven to transit officials Monday requesting shuttle buses, fare-free service, more Bluebikes for rent and better communication. The letter said the buses won’t accommodate all of the branch’s riders, noting that they come as little as once an hour, compared with the green line’s scheduled departures every six to eight minutes.

“We believe service replacement is key, and the T must either do more to show how existing bus service can accommodate all Union Square riders or else make provisions to schedule additional MBTA buses or to hire shuttle buses as needed,” said the letter addressed to state Department of Transportation secretary Gina Fiandaca.

In a statement, Lisa Battiston, the MBTA deputy press secretary, said these buses are accessible to green line riders.

“Shuttle buses are not being considered for this because the existing bus options are all less than a 10-minute trip,” she said in an email. “These existing bus services also have capacity to accommodate riders from Union Square.”

The Union Square branch opened just over a year ago, in March.

Accessibility concerns

The legislators’ letter said not only are the multiple bus alternatives confusing, but the area surrounding Union Square is hard to navigate.

“Sidewalks are currently closed around the Union Square Green Line station. Many crosswalks in the vicinity of Union Square and East Somerville station need to be repainted, and so far, any signage or wayfinding relative to this 42-day shutdown is completely missing,” they said.

Connolly has been tweeting in the days following the announcement of the closing, sharing pictures of the construction barriers and fences around sidewalks and fading crosswalks.

“There doesn’t appear to be much of a smooth path for a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid, at least not without making numerous twists and turns, navigating around sandbags, over steel plates and wooden ramps and loose barrels,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Has often been unreliable”

Accessibility is a concern for the representatives in regard to the station but also for the general community. The representatives wrote that the closing of the branch undermines the green line extension that was put in place to combat air pollution from Squire’s Bridge, Route 28 and McGrath highway and as a legal mandate resulting from construction of Boston’s Big Dig, the massive tunnel project begun in 1991 and ending in 2007.

“Is this really an MBTA bus stop?” he wrote.

“The only alternative being offered here is to rely on existing MBTA bus service, which has often been unreliable and recently faced a fresh round of scheduling cuts, including to the 86 and 87 buses,” the letter ended.

This is the second time in July that MassDOT repairs are affecting the MBTA. The Sumner Tunnel will close Wednesday for two months, leaving commuters few options to get into the city, including fare-free blue line service. On the other side of the green line, a B line closing is set to begin the day before, July 17, replaced by bus service.