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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Orange Line shutdown will allow MBTA to make repairs that would normally take five years

Orange Line shutdown will allow MBTA to make repairs that would normally take five years

By | August 4, 2022

Boston area scrambles to prepare for 30-day loss of major rail transit route

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People on station platform next to subway train
People on station platform next to subway train
Passengers walk a station platform after exiting an Orange Line train in 2016. The line will shut down for 30 days on Aug. 19. (Bob Johnston)

BOSTON — The Boston area is scrambling to prepare for the 30-day shutdown of the rapid transit Orange Line, a move that officials are casting as a necessary evil.

The Boston Globe reports Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said during a Wednesday news conference that the shutdown will allow the MBTA to accomplish in 30 days what would have taken five years under the normal evening-and-weekend maintenance schedule.

Baker and MBTA officials announced plans to close the line, used by more than 200,000 riders daily prior the pandemic and about 104,000 per day as of October 2021, on Wednesday [see “MBTA to shut down Orange Line …,” Trains News Wire, Aug. 3, 2022].

The MBTA has spelled out additional plans for the project, saying it will include replacement of 3,500 feet of track that is more than 38 years old, replacement of two crossovers, and installation of upgraded signals at the Oak Grove and Malden stations, along with track and tie repairs at locations throughout the 11-mile route.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in the MBTA release announcing the plan that the “30-day surge will allow the MBTA to accomplish major and expansive projects on a number of priorities at the same time. … We can eliminate slow zones, prevent unplanned service disruptions, and increase the reliability of our service.”

WHDH-TV reports Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement that “decades of deferred maintenance … has left us at a crisis point for the MBTA and the hundreds of thousands of commuters who rely on public transportation every day. A shutdown of this scale will be tremendously stressful for the region, but I’m hopeful that doing this necessary work now will save us years of disruption down the line.”

The MBTA board on Wednesday approved a $37 million contract for up to 200 shuttle buses, although routes are yet to be determined. Commuter rail service will also provide an alternative, but Baker said authorities “will fill in the blanks between now and the time we get to the 19th” on full plans for transit alternatives.

Jascha Franklin-Hodge, chief of streets for the City of Boston, said in a series of Twitter posts Wednesday that the city is working to find ways to help buses move through crowded streets, “looking at everything from curb space to signals to dedicated lanes.” But he said that creating bus priority “requires materials, enforcement, signage, public communication, planning for things like accessible parking, business loading, and intersection safety …

“There is no playbook for this, so we’re going to write one as we go.

This is the only such full shutdown planned by the MBTA, but that is subject to change. “We don’t currently have a plan to do any other full line closure,” Poftak said. “However, we reserve the right.”

4 thoughts on “Orange Line shutdown will allow MBTA to make repairs that would normally take five years

  1. There are many repair functions that may not be easily done over a weekend. Plus you have the problem of staging and removal before and aftter any work is done on weekends only.
    IMO this is the best way. Hope this work is planned for 24/7 except labor day. Suspect that the starting delay is staging materials and work equipment into position to start the work. As well getting the many bus drivers into place. Maybe some train drivers will be bumped back to bus drivers during this shutdown.?
    The start at Aug 19th with 30 days means 5 weekends of work. Just 4 weekday weeks. Hopefully MBTA will not find many surprizes that can extend work beyond 30 days.

    1. Orange Line parallels regional rail on both the north and the south sides. Difficult if not impossible to conjure up more cars, locos and T+E crew.

  2. The biggest trouble “if” they had done this about a month ago the timing would have been good. Instead all the college students come back for school and the schools start up just as the shut down starts. As some riders have pointed out “They say one month but like everything else proposed it often takes longer” Next will be complaints from NIMBYS about the noise the 24/7 work makes.

  3. Surely you jest. Did they really say they were going to do 5 years of work in A MONTH?

    5 years in a month.

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