BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker and MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak on Wednesday announced an “unprecedented” move to shut down the entire Orange Line later this month in effort to complete “critical track maintenance” amid mounting safety issues that continue to plague subway service in and around Boston.
Starting at 9 p.m. on Aug. 19, the Orange Line will close through Sept. 18, Gov. Charlie Baker and MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said during a news conference at Wellington Station. The revamped line is expected to reopen to riders on Monday, Sept. 19.
“We know that any diversion, particularly like this, will be frustrating to riders. We appreciate their patience as the T implements the short-term work that can result in long-term benefits in a much shorter time frame,” Baker said.
The shutdown will provide work crews with unencumbered access to the entirety of the Orange Line’s 20 stations, over 121,000 feet of track, and infrastructure, allowing a substantial amount of work to be accomplished, according to Poftak.
“This is an unprecedented service diversion...We’ve listened to our riders, and we hear them loud and clear – bold action needs to happen in order to improve the MBTA at the pace that riders deserve. This 30-day surge will allow the MBTA to accomplish major and expansive progress on a number of priorities at the same time,” Poftak said. “Thirty days of 24-hour access to the Orange Line replaces over five years of weekend diversions needed to address delays and slow zones. We can eliminate slow zones, prevent unplanned service disruptions, and increase the reliability of our service. Perhaps most importantly, we will provide the quality of safety and service that our riders deserve.”
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, according to the MBTA.
- 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 MBTA Board of Directors authorized a $37 million contract with Yankee Line Inc. to provide up to 200 shuttle buses during peak commuting hours to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of people who ride the Orange Line each day.
Baker urged Orange Line riders to work from home during the shutdown if possible, but Poftak said riders can also use their Charlie Cards to access the Commuter Rail. Alternative travel options include:
1. All Zone 1A, 1, and 2 fares can be paid simply by showing a Charlie Card or Charlie Tickets on ALL Commuter Rail lines. Since many Orange Line riders drive to or transfer between buses and the Orange Line, the MBTA is making it easy to access the Commuter Rail before riders get to the Orange Line by allowing all riders to utilize Commuter Rail stations in Zones 1A, 1, and 2 by showing their Charlie Card or Charlie Ticket to a conductor.
2. During these 30 days, most passing south-side Needham and Providence Line Commuter Rail trains will stop at Forest Hills, Ruggles, Back Bay, and South Station. On the north-side, Haverhill Line Commuter Rail trains will stop at Oak Grove, Malden Center, and North Station. During these 30 days, riders can show their Charlie Card or Charlie Ticket to the conductor to access the Commuter Rail. Riders should review the latest Commuter Rail schedule changes as a result of adding these stops, which will be available soon.
3. Seek existing MBTA bus and subway alternatives. Riders can use other existing MBTA bus and subway services to complete their trips.
4. Consider working from home. During this 30-day shutdown, Orange Line riders who are able to work from home are strongly encouraged to do so. The MBTA encourages employers with hybrid work policies to allow employees to work from home as much as possible.
5. Alternative shuttle bus service will be provided. Alternative shuttle bus service will also be provided by MBTA buses. Shuttle bus service will operate in both directions, connecting Oak Grove and Forest Hills stations to downtown Boston. Riders should expect that this alternative shuttle bus service will take longer and be less reliable than regular Orange Line train service. The MBTA is currently discussing options with the City of Boston for how to best service the downtown area and will provide updated information soon. This service will be at no cost to riders and fully accessible.
When the shutdown ends, the MBTA will roll out an Orange Line fleet that is predominantly new cars, according to Poftak.
This announcement comes nearly a week after the MBTA postponed planned track and signal work on the Orange Line. Rail service was set to be diverted between Oak Grove and the Wellington stop between July 29 and Aug. 28.
“While the MBTA is pausing this work for now, the MBTA is exploring additional opportunities to accelerate work on the Orange Line, and will keep riders updated,” an MBTA spokesperson said on July 27.
In May, the Federal Transit Administration issued a report highlighting four major safety concerns for the MBTA to address. That came a little over a month after a man was dragged to his death by a Red Line train leaving Broadway Station.
But the agency continues to be plagued by problems, including a runaway Red Line train in May and an Orange Line fire last month that sent hundreds of passengers scrambling to safety through smashed windows to escape.
The FTA ordered a “safety standdown” of the MBTA last week in response to Red Line trains rolling away on their own. Workers were required to take part in briefings where they reviewed and discussed recent incidents involving runaway trains.
Poftak said this upcoming shutdown will help the MBTA make “significant progress” in meeting FTA improvement orders.
Boston 25 Investigates first reported the expected closure of the Orange Line on Tuesday.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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