A Victory 32 Years in the Making

CLF fought for years to make sure the promised extension of the MBTA Green Line actually happened. Today, we celebrate.

MBTA Green Line

The Green Line extension will make public transit more accessible for residents of Somerville and Medford. Photo: Chaval Brasil/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It’s a historic day in Massachusetts: For the first time since 1987, there’s a new subway branch on the MBTA train tracks. The Green Line extension has finally been extended into Somerville and is running trains to the city’s Union Square neighborhood. Trains on the Medford branch will begin in a few months.

The reason this Green Line extension opened today? CLF sued Massachusetts over the Big Dig, a massive project that made Greater Boston more accessible by car, but brought the burden of higher air pollution to many city residents. In our settlement, we forced the State to commit to improving public transit for Bostonians by extending the Green Line, among many other already completed projects.

The problem with pouring money into a project like the Big Dig but neglecting improvements to public transit was simple: Easing the city’s notoriously congested Expressway would result in more cars speeding through Boston, not fewer. And no one could afford the health problems caused by more car exhaust and increased air pollution.

Today’s historic launch of the Green Line extension promised to us so many years ago shows that when we choose to fight for progress, we can win.

Conservation Law Foundation is committed to holding our governments and institutions accountable in court when they’re not serving the people of New England. We’re fighting every day for increased access to cleaner, more affordable transportation, and justice and equity for all New Englanders, no matter where you live or how much money you make.

There’s still more work to do. The Green Line needs to be extended further yet to meet the terms of CLF’s original 1990 agreement with the Commonwealth – and the MBTA is need of massive improvements and investment to better serve the people of Greater Boston who rely on it every day.

And we need to ensure that residents of Somerville and Medford are supported by the new development that comes with improved transit – not displaced because of it.

We’ll be fighting every day to make sure that happens. But in the meantime, I’m very excited to celebrate this historic milestone with you today.

Without people like you supporting this work, the Green Line extension would have never been possible. Today would have never happened.

Thank you for everything that you do for New England’s people, climate, and our natural resources.

On the Move

It’s been 32 since CLF’s landmark settlement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over Big Dig air pollution mitigations. Our decades-long push for clean transportation commitments and better access for all has benefited communities through investments in new rail service, better parking options, and modernized stations. But that’s just the start. Here are just a few highlights of our Massachusetts’ transit gains from then to now.

1990 | The Commonwealth settles CLF’s Big Dig lawsuit with commitments to extensive public transit improvements.

1994 | South Station bus terminal completed, consolidating serveral intercity coach bus locations into a central location.

1994–2018 | Blue Line stations renovated for longer trains and wheelchair accessibility; six-car trains added in 2008.

1995–1998 | Commuter rail service opens in Newburyport.

1996 | HOV lanes opened on I-93 through Boston. CLF fought to maintain the southbound HOV lane in 2019 when the State attempted to open it to all vehicles during a Tobin Bridge construction project.

1996 | Framingham commuter rail line extended to Worcester.

1998 | 21,000 parking spaces added systemwide, providing better access to public transit for people living outside of Boston.

2007–now | New Fairmount line stations open in Dorchester and Mattapan, bringing low-cost and accessible service to underserved neighborhoods.

2014 | CLF raises alarm over lack of funding in MBTA Capital Investment Plan for replacing buses; Massachusetts Department of Transportation listens and adds funds. 

2018–2024 | New cars will replace all current Orange Line and Red Line cars.

2022 | Long-awaited Green Line extension to Somerville opens; Medford extension projected to open later in the year.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.