BOSTON (State House News Service) — Federal officials on Wednesday ordered the MBTA to craft a series of plans in the next six weeks to fix major deficiencies in staffing, internal communications, safety management, and other problems.
Capping off a months-long investigation into high-profile safety failures at the T that in some cases have caused injuries or deaths, the Federal Transit Administration published an extensive, withering report with 53 findings about the agency and the Department of Public Utilities, which is the designated state oversight agency.
The FTA's 90-page report outlines four more directives the MBTA must follow and one more the DPU must follow, adding to a series of directives issued in June before the investigation's conclusion. The agency risks losing federal funds if it fails to address the orders. While the FTA will remain involved to ensure changes are made, it has not opted to take over safety oversight at the T as it did with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority the only other time it conducted a similar safety management inspection.
"This is the end of our safety management inspection, but it is not the end of FTA's involvement," said FTA Associate Administrator for Communications and Congressional Affairs Paul Kincaid. Investigators found the MBTA, controlled by Gov. Charlie Baker and his deputies, has overemphasized work on major capital projects at the expense of operating maintenance and day-to-day service. At its current staffing levels, the T does not have enough workers available to simultaneously run its desired level of subway service, keep the system in sufficient shape, and fulfill the goals outlined in its multi-year capital plan, the FTA said.
MBTA officials said Wednesday morning that they would stand up a new Quality, Compliance and Oversight Office to lead the response to the FTA's findings. That office, which will be helmed by MBTA Chief of Capital Delivery Katie Choe, will exist outside the agency's current hierarchy and report directly to General Manager Steve Poftak. Baker also filed a supplemental budget bill Wednesday that would make another $200 million available for the MBTA to use on safety fixes, in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars lawmakers already appropriated for that purpose.
Chris Lisinski, State House News Service