MBTA considers shutting down Orange Line for 30 days to carry out maintenance

The MBTA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. General Manager Steve Poftak will make an announcement Wednesday afternoon about “accelerated infrastructure upgrades to the MBTA” at Wellington Station, along with Governor Charlie Baker and Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler, according to the governor’s public schedule.

The MBTA’s board of directors has scheduled a last-minute meeting on Wednesday morning to sign a contract with A. to revise Yankee Line, Inc., a company that often provides shuttle buses for the MBTA when it shuts down parts of its metro lines.

Former Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi said that if the T shut down the entire Orange Line for 30 days, it would likely be a first.

“There may be a little precedent, but nothing on this scale,” Aloisi said. “This is a drastic step.”

The Orange Line’s 20 stations are an essential transportation option for entire communities. The average number of weekday journeys on the Orange Line was 104,000 in October 2021, according to an MBTA presentation earlier this year. In comparison, the average weekday journeys on the Blue Line were 41,000, the Green Line 94,000 and the Red Line 125,000.

The plan to shut down the Orange Line comes after a year of terrifying security incidents at the MBTA.

Since a collision with the Green Line in July 2021 – just over a year ago – the T has been plagued with problems: An escalator malfunctioned at Back Bay Station, causing a bloody collision and injured nine people, a commuter train killed one woman in her car after a crossing signal in Wilmington malfunctioned, two more Green Line trains crashed and derailed, injuring four people, and a man was dragged to his death by a Red Line train at Broadway Station after his arm was caught between a subway door was stuck.

The death brought intense scrutiny from federal transportation safety regulators, who began an almost unprecedented inspection of the MBTA subway system in mid-April. The Federal Transit Administration is expected to release its final report on the T this month.

In June, the FTA said it found the MBTA didn’t have enough coordinators to keep the subway running safely, so the agency cut service on the orange, blue and red lines by more than 20 percent. Federal inspectors also said the T needed to repair and upgrade large sections of its subway tracks.

The FTA found that about 10 percent of the MBTA’s subway tracks have speed limits due to defects, including a years-long slow zone on the Orange Line tracks between Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay Stations. Rail maintenance crews use a 2 or 2½-hour window to make repairs overnight, not nearly enough, the FTA said.

The MBTA has already made progress in repairing a stretch of faulty Orange Line tracks that caused the years-long slow zone, the agency told board members last month.

Not only the tracks are a problem. Old Orange Line cars, in service from 1979 to 1981, have never had a midlife overhaul. Last month, one of the old cars caught fire when a side panel fell off and hit the electrified third rail, leaving passengers frantically fleeing.

In 2014, the MBTA selected a Chinese company that was way too low on competition to build an assembly plant in Springfield and supply hundreds of new Orange and Red Line cars to the MBTA.

Last month, the T had received 78 of the 152 new Orange Line cars and only 12 of the 252 new Red Line cars, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said on July 22. The T expects all new Orange Line cars to be delivered by summer 2023 and all new Red Line cars by summer 2025, Pesaturo said.

The company, CRRC MA, has said the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues are causing the delays.

In a radio interview last week, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu called for a more aggressive approach to fix the T’s aging infrastructure.

“It’s time to talk about just taking the bandage off and taking drastic action,” she added during a July 25 interview on WBUR’s “Radio Boston.” She suggested closing parts of the Orange Line and said Boston would be willing to devote space on the street to shuttle buses.

She repeated that promise on Tuesday evening.

“We’re at the point with the T that we can’t keep kicking the eye on the road anymore,” she told reporters at an unrelated event. “We would work very closely with the agency to ensure that Boston is willing to support any additional alternatives and to ensure that the work actually takes place during this time to make a real impact so that we could support that service improvement.” to see.”

Taylor Dolven can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.

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