Designs on Brickbottom

December 19, 2010

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If you look at Somerville’s Brickbottom neighborhood from above, you’ll see a tangled spaghetti bowl of train tracks. And it’s only going to get more complicated with the Green Line extension: new tracks, a maintenance facility, and possibly more commuter rail traffic. The state Department of Transportation hasn’t made any new design information public in many months, but word has gotten out to advocates that existing congestion in the Brickbottom area will require some fancy design footwork. “It’s clear that the design is going to be rethought,’’ said Wig Zamore, a member of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership who sits on advisory boards for the MBTA and the Urban Ring. The area simply might not be wide enough to fit the Green Line tracks, the Community Path walk/bike route, and access for emergency vehicles. One new idea is a “double-decker’’ design that would run the Green Line tracks at different heights, similar to the Orange Line at State Street, Zamore said. Continuing design efforts await a new consultant, as have projects to mitigate the delay in the coming of the Green Line, which has been pushed back from its legally mandated opening date of Dec. 31, 2014. The key concern at a Somerville aldermen’s committee meeting Dec. 13 was the Community Path, Zamore said. The state has not promised to design and fund the Brickbottom part of the path, and residents are worried that it won’t happen. That seems foolish to Zamore: Eastern Somerville would be the one missing link in a 20-mile walk/bike route from Bedford to downtown. That knot of tracks may get even more congested soon: The state is proposing to route additional Worcester-to-Boston commuter rail along the Grand Junction tracks that run through eastern Cambridge and Somerville on their way to North Station. The proposal was scheduled to be discussed at the Brickbottom artist studios on Dec. 15.Representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation were not available by press time. Learn more at

Danielle Dreilinger