BOSTON — The MBTA’s Orange Line will completely shut down for 30 days on Friday night, forcing thousands upon thousands of commuters who rely on the subway service each day to find a new way to travel in and around Boston.
The unprecedented closure of the heavily-traveled subway line began Friday at 9 p.m. and lasts through Sept. 18. Officials have warned the public that traffic congestion on roads across the region will likely be nightmarish throughout the duration of the shutdown.
“Whether you drive, bike, or walk, you will see changes in your everyday commute and your commute will likely be longer, " Massachusetts State Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver earlier this week. “To be clear, these shutdowns will have substantial regional travel impacts beyond the just transit users...Traffic congestion is expected to be severe.”
MassDOT shared a map of the areas that are expected to see additional congestion, and it’s bad news for commuters who live in the communities of Medford, Malden, Everett, Revere, Chelsea, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville.
Officials are forecasting gridlock traffic for anyone who takes to the roadways as an alternative travel option during the shutdown.
“If possible, avoid the region altogether until the diversion period has ended,” Gulliver advised.
Anyone planning on traveling into Boston from the north or south will likely have to sit in major backups on Interstate 93. Significant delays are also expected on Route 1, Route 1A, and parts of Interstate 90 around the city.
The service diversion could cut some roadway capacity in half due to additional space needed for the fleet of shuttle buses that be rolling down streets while crews work to complete five years worth of upgrades along the Orange Line in a span of 30 days.
Anticipating an uptick in traffic among pedestrians and cyclists, Gulliver urged vulnerable road users to beware of the shuttle buses’ “different turning radiuses.”
“I want to give a special warning to vulnerable road users, like cyclists and pedestrians. The shuttle buses that are being implemented here are not the same as MBTA buses,” Gulliver said. “They have different turning radiuses and different blind spots for drivers. If you are walking or biking near these shuttle buses near this route you need to be extra vigilant, especially around these bus stops and around turns and intersections.”
In addition to the Orange Line being closed, Green Line service north of Government Center will similarly be offline and replaced by shuttle buses for four weeks between August and September.
Boston Transportation Department officials are planning bus priority lanes in key areas and city officials are working on pop-up transit mobility hubs at Government Center and Copley Square. Mayor Michelle Wu said these locations will have extensive dedicated curb space and clear signage.
“Our goal is to help commuters navigate transfers to the Green Line and bus connections, and access to Bluebikes,” Mayor Wu said.
Mayor Wu also announced that neighborhood services liaisons will be present at impacted stops along the Orange Line to help travelers navigate alternative routes on the first day of the shutdown.
The shutdown coincides with the start of the school year for Boston Public Schools, but Mayor Wu said students who arrive late for class due to transportation issues will not be penalized.
If you are an Orange Line rider seeking a new way to get around, here are some alternate forms of travel to consider over the course of the next month:
During the Orange Line closure, the T will offer free shuttle buses between Oak Grove and Haymarket/Government Center and between Forest Hills and Back Bay/Copley.
While all shuttle buses are fully ADA-accessible, accessible vans will also be available for any rider who prefers van service upon request. MBTA personnel will also be available at every station to assist riders in requesting this accessible van service. Due to the free shuttle bus service, RIDE trips that begin and end within ¾ mile of the Orange Line will be free for RIDE users during the 30-day shutdown.
Bus lanes are being added on the Gillmore Bridge between Cambridge and Charlestown, Rutherford Avenue, and in Sullivan Square.
Several streets will be closed to general traffic to allow shuttle operations, including:
- State Street between Congress Street and Washington Street
- Dartmouth Street between St. James Street and Boylston Street
- Washington Street (northbound-only) between Arborway and Williams Street
During the Green Line shutdown, riders traveling between Government Center and Union Square will board free and accessible shuttle buses, which will make stops at Lechmere station and the Lechmere station bus loop.
During the 30-day shutdown, riders can use the Commuter Rail within the City of Boston at no charge simply by showing a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket on board. This encompasses Zones 1A, 1, and 2 on all Commuter Rail lines.
The CharlieCard does not need to be loaded with funds to access the Commuter Rail. Simply show your CharlieCard to the conductor to ride the train. The City of Boston distributes CharlieCards at Boston Public Libraries through its CharlieCard Access Initiative.
To keep everyone moving during the Orange Line shutdown, the City of Boston is offering free 30-day passes to Bluebikes, the City of Boston’s public bike share, during the upcoming MBTA Orange Line shutdown. Starting on August 19, passes will be available at bluebikes.com/join and in the mobile app. We have links to more information about this program, as well as tips for riding bikes in the city below.
EXISTING MBTA BUS AND SUBWAY SERVICES
Riders can use other existing MBTA bus and subway services to complete their trips, like the Route 39 bus, Silver Lines 4 and 5, the Green Line, and others. Riders are also encouraged to check out the MBTA’s Trip Planner.
WORK FROM HOME
The MBTA encourages those who can work from home to do so and for the public that needs to travel.
During the shutdown, MBTA officials say crews will work to complete a number of projects, including track replacement and upgraded signal systems.
MBTA RIDER’S GUIDE
WHAT WORK WILL BE DONE DURING THE CLOSURE?
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the shutdown will maximize the amount of work able to be accomplished and will progress a number of projects and maintenance along the entire Orange Line, which will improve service, safety, and reliability for riders, including:
- The replacement of over 3,500 feet of 38-year-old Orange Line track and tie replacement work that will allow for the removal of speed restrictions, improving travel time for Orange Line riders.
- The replacement of two crossovers that facilitate the movement of Orange Line trains, allowing for improved reliability and future capacity improvements.
- Track repair, tie replacement, concrete work, and more along the Southwest Corridor of the Orange Line, which will improve reliability.
- The installation of upgraded signals and associated systems at Oak Grove and Malden stations, allowing for improved safety and reliability.
The Orange Line provides about 101,000 trips each day, with ridership about 50 percent of what it was prior to the pandemic.
More Orange Line coverage below:
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