Orange Line Shutting Down For 30 Days, MBTA Cites Long Overdue Maintenance"

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MEDFORD, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The MBTA is shutting down the Orange Line for a month for "long overdue maintenance", Governor Charlie Baker and the MBTA announced Wednesday.

The line will shut down at 9 p.m. on Aug. 19 for 30 days and reopen on Monday, Sept. 19 to lay down new tracks across the entirety of the Orange line. While the MBTA has shut down sections of service before like this for work before, Governor Baker said the MBTA has never shut down an entire line for maintenance.

What Will The Work On The Orange Line Entail?

Governor Baker said the MBTA opted to shut down the entire line for a month to avoid having to do the work overnight or on weekends and allow workers to have 24/7 access to perform track replacement. MBTA General Manager Steve had decided to do this maintenance overnight or on weekends, it would take about five years to complete all of the work.

"What we've done is combine multiple projects that have been in the works for many years and have been scheduled at various times in the future," Poftak said. "We're combining these projects to be as productive as possible."

During these 30 days, the MBTA will replace over 3,500 feet of 38-year-old tracks and two crossovers that help the movement of Orange Line trains. The planned maintenance will also include tie replacement, concrete work, and more along the Southwest Corridor of the line and signal upgrades at Oak Grove and Malden Center.

The work is part of an ongoing overhaul by the MBTA following a safety inspection by the Federal Transit Administration that recommended, among other things, that the MBTA replace tracks in several areas across the system. Poftak said this shutdown will allow them to reduce the number of delays and unplanned service interruptions on the Orange Line.

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"We're going to replace tracks in areas with existing speed restrictions and slow zones as directed by one of the FTA's special directives," Poftak said. "Specifically that's going to be in the area of Jackson Square, Back Bay, Tufts Medical Center, Haymarket, and a few select other locations."

How will the MBTA Replace Orange Line Service?

Free shuttle buses will replace service across the entire Orange throughout the entire shutdown. The MBTA announced a new contract that will cost between $27 to $37 million and include 160 Yankee Line busses.

Riders will also be able to use the Commuter Rail to replace Orange Line service for free by showing a Charlie Card to a conductor on the northbound Haverhill line and southbound Needham and Providence lines. All three of those lines make stops at stations along the Orange Line.

"We know that any diversion, particularly one like this will be frustrating to riders and we appreciate their patience as the T implements this short-term work that could result in long-term benefits on a much shorter time frame," Governor Baker said.

Poftak said the decision to do a complete shutdown of the Orange Line was partially influenced by feedback from riders in the wake of recent safety issues, such as an Orange Line train catching fire over the Mystic River in July.

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"We've taken the time to listen to riders and sympathize with their frustrations and we've heard them loud and clear," Poftak said. "They want bold action to improve the MBTA at the pace they deserve and we know that we can't wait. Part of this shutdown is about not waiting. It's about making the necessary improvements and making them now."

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu released a statement on the MBTA's plans.

Decades of deferred maintenance—compounded by a lack if urgency even in recent years—has left us at a crisis point for the MBTA and the hundreds of thousands of commuters who rely on public transportation everday. A shutdown of this scale will be tremendously stressful for the region, but I'm hopeful that doing this necessary work now will save us years of disruption down the line. The City of Boston will work closely with the MBTA to support the immediate planning and ongoing monitoring of alternative shuttles and diversions so the system can quickly address the alarming safety and reliability concerns highlighted in recent weeks. We are especially focused on planning for the start of the school year and the impacts on BPS students and staff. As an Orange Line commuter, I will continue riding the T frequently during this period to see firsthand the pain points and opportunities for improvement to transportation alternatives.

Governor Baker added when Orange Line service resumes on Sept. 19, the line will run faster, more reliable, and predominantly with its new train cars. Poftak added that stations will also undergo a "deep clean" during the time the line is shut down.

WBZ's Karyn Regal (@karynregal) has more.

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