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Green Line Planners in Discussions with Track Abutters

More than 200 homes directly abut the future Green Line Extension, and planners are beginning individual discussions with every property owner.

Residents gather to see plans for the Green Line Extension in the Brickbottom section of Somerville. Credit: Chris Orchard
Residents gather to see plans for the Green Line Extension in the Brickbottom section of Somerville. Credit: Chris Orchard
The Green Line Extension Project team has begun individual discussions with property owners along the new light-rail system's train tracks.

According to Karen Arpino-Shaffer, a member of the Green Line Extension planning team, there are about 470 parcels of private property along the MBTA's right-of-way that will be directly affected by construction of the Green Line in Cambridge, Somerville and Medford. 

Of those, more than 200 parcels contain single-family, two-family or three-family homes, she said. Some of those homes are very close to the right-of-way.

Arpino-Shaffer spoke at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night to inform abutting residents about noise and retaining walls along the Green Line Extension.

See: Do You Live Near Future Green Line Train Tracks? >>

Retaining walls: "a major landscape element"


Along the tracks, Green Line builders will construct retaining walls, and where tracks are close to homes, they'll build noise walls.

Arpino-Shaffer said these walls will be "a major landscape element for the community."

She said the Green Line Project team has given a lot of consideration to designing walls that discourage graffiti—using a textured "rustication" design that isn't an attractive canvass for graffiti sprayers. Some walls will be topped with translucent panels to allow sunlight into neighboring parcels. Along the entire stretch of track, there will be drainage ditches to prevent runoff into surrounding property.

"There will be disruptions"


Building these walls will be a big deal to abutters, Arpino-Shaffer said, adding, "We [will be] out there. There will be disruptions. We will be working on people's property."

The majority of abutting homes will be close to the Green Line Extension's retaining walls but at least 10 feet away from the MBTA property upon which the walls will be built. Although no easements will be required in these cases, such properties will nonetheless be very close to the construction process.

In some cases, however, the MBTA will need to secure easements—or even partial land acquisitions—to build the walls.

Occasionally, construction workers will need access to a neighbor's property. A few walls will have underground footings that encroach on—or rather, under—a neighbor's property.

And in a few instances, retaining walls will be built on private property.

Two houses on Horace Street, for instance, will have walls right up against them.

"Individual discussions" with property owners


Because each abutting property has a unique proximity and relationship to the Green Line train tracks and retaining walls, Green Line planners will be having "individual discussions" with property owners, Arpino-Shaffer said.

Wednesday's meeting, held at the Holiday Inn in East Somerville, also included a presentation featuring digital renderings of what the Green Line Extension will look like in Somerville and Cambridge. A highlight was an animated computer simulation of a Green Line ride from the new Lechmere Station into Union Station and Washington Street Station.

After the meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston said she was pleased, so far, with the work being conducted. Abutters of the MBTA right-of-way near Union Square already deal with Commuter Rail trains and train tracks, she noted. Although the retaining walls and sound barriers will be a new feature in the neighborhood, they "clean things up, take care of the noise, take care of the drainage."

"Drainage systems ... that's a big deal," she said.

Mark Meachen, who owns an apartment building in Union Square that is close, but not directly abutting, the train tracks, said, "I'm looking forward to this. I think this is really going to benefit the neighborhood in a good way."

More neighborhood meetings planned


Wednesday's meeting focused on parts of the Green Line Extension being built in Cambridge and in the Brickbottom and Union Square sections of Somerville.

Future meetings in January and early February will address similar issues on other parts of Somerville and Medford.

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