The MBTA did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. General Manager Steve Bufftak is scheduled to make an announcement of “accelerated infrastructure upgrades to the MBTA” Wednesday afternoon at Wellington Station along with Governor Charlie Baker and Transportation Secretary Jamie Tesler, according to the governor’s public schedule.
The MBTA Board scheduled a last-minute meeting on Wednesday morning to review the contract with A. Yankee Line Corporation, A The company that often provides shuttle bus service to MBTA when parts of its subway lines close.
Former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Jim Alwessi said that if T shuts down the entire orange line for 30 days, it would likely be the first.
“There may be a small precedent, but nothing on this scale,” Alwessi said. “This is a drastic step.”
Orange Line’s 20 stations serve as a primary transportation option for entire communities. The average daily number of trips on the Orange Line as of October 2021 was 104,000, according to an MBTA presentation earlier this year. By comparison, the average number of daily trips on the Blue Line was 41,000, the Green Line 94,000, and the Red Line 125,000.
The plan to close the Orange Line comes after a year of horrific safety incidents on the MBTA.
Since the Green Line collided in July 2021—just over a year ago—T has been in trouble: An escalator at Back Bay Station malfunctioned causing a bloody pile and injuring nine people, a commuter train killed a woman in her car after a transit signal in Wilmington failed, and it crashed. Two more Green Lines derailed, injuring four, and a man was dragged to his death by a Red Line train at Broadway after his arm got stuck in a subway door.
The death brought intense scrutiny by federal transportation safety regulators who began a nearly unprecedented inspection of the MBTA subway system in mid-April. The Federal Transit Administration is expected to release its final report on T this month.
In June, it was The FTA said it found that the MBTA It didn’t have enough dispatchers to run the subway safely, so the agency cut service on the orange, blue and red lines by more than 20 percent. Federal inspectors also said the T needs to repair and upgrade large swaths of its subway tracks.
The FTA found that about 10 percent of MBTA’s subway tracks are subject to speed restrictions due to faults, including a years-slow zone on Orange Line tracks between Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay stations. The FTA said track maintenance crews use a two-hour window to complete repairs overnight, not nearly enough time.
The agency told board members last month that the MBTA had already made progress in repairing part of the faulty Orange Line tracks that had caused the region to sluggish for years.
It’s not just the tracks problem. Old Orange Line cars, which went into service from 1979 to 1981, have never undergone midlife repair. Last month, an old car caught fire when a side panel fell and touched the electrified third rail, causing passengers to frantically flee.
In 2014, the MBTA selected a Chinese company far under-supplying competitors to build an assembly plant in Springfield and deliver hundreds of new Orange and Red Line cars to MBTA.
As of 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 spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said July 22. T expects all new Orange Line cars to be delivered by summer 2023, and Psatoro said all new Red Line cars will be delivered by summer 2025.
The company, CRRC MA, said the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues cause delay.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu called for a more aggressive approach to repairing T’s aging infrastructure during a radio interview last week.
“It’s time to talk about just ripping off the bandage and taking drastic action,” she added during a July 25 interview on Boston radio station WBUR. She suggested closing sections of the orange line and said Boston would be willing to allocate space on the street for shuttle buses.
She reiterated that commitment on Tuesday evening.
“We’ve come to a point with a T that we can’t keep kicking the can on the road anymore,” she told reporters at an unrelated event. “We will be working closely with the agency to make sure Boston is ready to help support any additional alternatives and to make sure that the work actually takes place during this period to have a real impact until we see the service improve.”
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