As students return to school and fall schedules begin to ramp up, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak defended the timing of the disruptive 30-day Orange Line shutdown and said additional subway closures will continue.
Poftak said the rushed shutdown of the entire Orange Line was due to two major factors: the T’s response to federal directives to provide prolonged time for track maintenance and upgrades, and the difficulty in procuring a significant number of shuttle buses to provide alternate service.
“One of the real challenges of doing a shutdown of this size is the number of buses you need,” Poftak said at Wednesday’s Board of Directors meeting. “We have approximately 180 buses, all ADA accessible, and there is not a liquid market for those buses.
“And as we looked into it,” he added, “we came to the conclusion that if we did not do it in this window, we would not be able to do it until late October at the earliest, and we made the judgment that ridership was going to be higher, and that the tradeoffs were worth it for us to do it at this time.”
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Poftak acknowledged that there could have been better communication to riders and the public prior to the unprecedented shutdown, which is overlapping with a partial closure on the Green Line, and that the agency would have preferred to do the entire diversion in August, but “it didn’t come together that way.”
“I think this is the plan we came up with, and we think it’s a very good plan,” he said.
Poftak made his remarks as part of his update on the Orange Line shutdown, which was in its 12th day on Wednesday, saying that the MBTA is on track to resume service on Sept. 18.
He said the T has completed 48% of planned work, which includes 44% of 3,500 feet of track and 14,000 linear feet of rail replacement, and 43% of signal work throughout the system.
According to his presentation, signal testing is ongoing at Oak Grove and Malden Center stations, special track work installation is wrapping up at Ruggles, and tie replacement continues at Jackson Crossover and Dana Bridge to the community college on the northbound track. Track work and rail installation is also continuing near Wellington station.
In response to rumors circulating about an upcoming partial Red Line closure that was posted briefly on the MBTA website, Poftak said there are no plans to shut down the “entire Red Line for the winter,” but acknowledged that diversions will continue to be implemented throughout the system.
“I would say that everything’s that on the drawing board right now is a partial diversion, which is a strategy we have been using for many years,” Poftak said. “We will be using these, I would say, smaller and more targeted diversions regularly as one of our tactics to address the ongoing maintenance issue which the FTA identified.
“But that said, if the implicit question is, are you shutting down the entire Red Line for the winter? I can tell you the answer is no.”
BOSTON, MA – August 12: MBTA WOES: Buses at the Forest Hills Orange Line station as emergency work on the Orange and Green lines is about or has already started on August 12, 2022 in , BOSTON, MA. (Staff Photo By JS O’Connor Photography/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)