Union Square MBTA station will be closed during Somerville’s Fluff Festival for 2nd straight year

Local News

Union Square will close for 25 days starting Sept. 18 and won’t provide shuttles, complicating transportation to the annual festival.

MBTA map at Union Square.
Union Square will close for 25 days starting Sept. 18. Vincent Alban For The Boston Globe

For a second year in a row, the Union Square MBTA stop will be closed during Somerville’s annual What The Fluff Festival, raising concerns from the event’s organizers.

The station will close for 25 days beginning Sept. 18, the Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday.

The popular Fluff Festival will be held on September 23 from 3-7 p.m. in the heart of Union Square. It regularly draws more than 20,000 attendees. The festival celebrates Marshmallow Fluff, originally created and sold in Somerville.

People put Marshmallow Fluff into participants' hair during a What The Fluff? Festival game.
Pairs compete in a fluff hairdo contest at the annual Fluff Festival held in Union Square in Somerville. – Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Union Square Main Streets oversees the festival and has expressed concern that the T closure will impact attendance.

The MBTA closed Union Square last year during the festival as well, only weeks after the station first opened. 

“It’s been frustrating and it’s been disappointing,” Jessica Eshleman, executive director of Union Square Main Streets told Boston.com. “We know that there’s a bridge that needs to be repaired but because it’s two years in a row, the timing is just a very difficult arrangement.”

Green Line service will terminate at Lechmere starting on Sept. 18 to renovate the Squires Bridge, which carries Route 28/McGrath Highway over the Union Branch of the Green Line, the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line, and Somerville Avenue Extension, according to MassDOT. No shuttles will be provided to replace service. 

Union Square Main Streets reached out to the city and elected officials in advance to advocate for a closure that wouldn’t overlap with the festival this year, Eshleman said. Union Square Main Streets wasn’t certain about the closure timeline until the MBTA’s announcement yesterday. 

Eshleman said she recently had a phone call with a high level representative from MassDOT who is looking into providing a shuttle service from Lechmere to the Union Square area. 

“It was made clear to me that MassDOT hopes that they can lessen the impacts to the festival so I’m going to remain optimistic that the MBTA will be providing shuttle services continuously on the day of the festival,” Eshleman said. 

There’s no way to understand the direct impact of last year’s Union Square closure on attendance, Eshleman said, but festival numbers are only one factor. Vendors depend on the Fluff festival to build clientele.

The Union Square’s 25-day closure is a consolidated version of MassDOT’s original plan to close the station from July 18-August 28. The 42-day closure was met with backlash from locals and political officials, leading the Healey Administration to push the closure back to September. 

“We know this will come as an inconvenience to Green Line riders and we have worked to adjust our construction schedule to minimize impacts as much as possible while balancing the need to complete necessary infrastructure work,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver in a press release. “With this new 25-day schedule, we can strike a better balance between completing important repairs while minimizing the impacts to transit service.”