Feds requiring immediate safety changes at MBTA after 5 near-misses with workers and trains

BOSTON — Starting Thursday safety changes go into effect at the MBTA after there were five near-misses involving workers and trains in two months. The FTA is ordering the requirements in order to keep workers safe.

Because there have been so many incidents involving worker safety, starting today, MBTA workers will not be allowed on the subway right of way unless officials provide the federal government paperwork showing the details of the planned work—including showing where employees will enter and exit the track area.

On Monday, April 24th, the MBTA must provide the federal government evidence it’s monitoring and capping the number of work crews it’s allowing to safely do work on the tracks.

On Friday, May 5th, the MBTA will need to show the FTA that it has audited its radio to make sure all employees are improving the way they communicate with each other. MBTA officials will also have to complete a rules compliance and safety work plan.

On June 15th, just under two months from now, workers must start getting trained on the newly revised safety protocols. All while these safety improvements are going on, the feds will be doing unannounced inspections.

According to a letter sent to new General Manager Phillip Eng, the MBTA experienced three near misses involving trains and workers on March 13th, 21st and 24th. Despite an effort to reinforce safety rules, the MBTA reported another near miss on April 7th and again on the 14th.

General Manager Eng’s first day on the job was April 10th and he says he took a right-of-way training course himself on his third day. He talked about the FTA’s new safety requirements for all workers.

“We are reviewing the FTA directive and insuring that our processes and procedures allow us to operate safely,” said General Manager Eng. “These near misses are things that are tied to how we access the tracks, the work we are doing and the communication we are doing among all the parties.

The MBTA has already been under close watch of the federal government since last year. The FTA identified the MBTA’s safety issues have been fueled by staffing shortages, communication failures and not investing enough to keep up with necessary maintenance.

“As MBTA continues to work to reduce a backlog of maintenance work, creating a safer ride for passengers, the agency is putting more workers on the rail tracks during operating hours. As it does so, transit workers must be better protected,” the FTA wrote in a statement.

The FTA did say the MBTA is making significant progress since their investigation last summer.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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