Lawmakers Discuss MBTA's Safety Practices, Upgrades At Oversight Hearing

Photo: Karyn Regal / WBZ NewsRadio

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Public transportation heading in and out of Boston was under the microscope during the first of a series of oversight hearings at the State House on Monday. The focus of the discussions being on the safety management practices of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, in the wake of multiple incidents where some passengers were injured, one of which a man on the Red Line was killed.

Just weeks ago, the MBTA pulled newer model trains from service because of a battery overcharge issue, prior to that, trains were brought out of circulation because of a braking concern. With those addressed, other past incidents including derailments and shutdowns are spurring questions from lawmakers on transparency, communications, and the safety culture of the MBTA.

The hearing from the Joint Committee on Transportation, comes after a scathing report from the Federal Transit Administration last month that called for extensive corrective work to be done. According to State House News Service, that work could total up to $300 million to fund, a number that will likely go up over the course of more hearings later this year.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said at the hearing that improvements will not be an overnight development.

"It's a big battleship to turn around— we're not going to turn it around in a month, in a day, a year," Poftak said. Poftak went on to say that in terms of communication, an anonymous employee tip line for reporting incidents on the T has been installed and is working.

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Joint Chair Representative William Straus made a comparison to the old Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

"We don't need a Turnpike Authority, and as I look around, nobody is missing it. The highway system is provided, and MassDOT as an overall parent organization, I think, is poised to maybe take over, maybe it's a transition," Straus said.

A federal report on T safety is expected for August.

WBZ's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports.

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