Over 100,000 daily riders – including many from Everett, Malden, Revere & Saugus – are impacted by this historic shutdown; ‘T officials cite need for major revitalization work to improve ‘safety, service, reliability’; shuttle buses will be provided
MBTA officials on Wednesday announced a dramatic move that they said would lead to improved “service, safety and reliability” on one of its most heavily used transit lines. Riders are being encouraged to work from home during this historic, unprecedented 30-day total shutdown of the MBTA’s Orange Line as the agency moves to address long overdue maintenance. The MBTA announced the shutdown beginning at approximately 9 p.m. on Friday, August 19 through September 18, with service resuming on Monday, September 19.
‘T’ officials, in a press conference which included statements by Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday, said the shutdown will enable an “accelerated, major revitalization effort… on a faster timeline.”
Wednesday’s major announcement comes after a series of high-profile incidents, including a fire that led to riders jumping out of the windows of an Orange Line train, and a Federal Transit Administration review that led to a long list of safety directives.
Despite the many “plusses” cited by MBTA officials on Wednesday, the shutdown will still severely impact the mobility and day-to-day lives of those who travel the Orange Line daily. The city of Malden hosts no less than two major Orange Line stations: Oak Grove at the northerly end of the line and Malden Center.
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said on Wednesday that he and his staff are already working on a local response to this transportation situation. “I have already met with our team to see if we can do anything to help the situation which includes utilizing the commuter rail to offset the disruption,” Mayor Christenson said as part of a statement released Wednesday afternoon. (See separate story in this issue of The Advocate.)
Mass. Governor Charlie Baker urged workers who have the ability to do so to “consider working from home” and likewise encouraged employers to adopt this option for workers and staff if possible.
The major revitalization work to take place on the Orange Line during this 30-day shutdown will deliver a number of projects “over five years faster than originally planned,” officials said, and will result in “track replacement, upgraded signal systems, and station improvements.” The MBTA will also be able to accomplish required track maintenance associated with Federal Transit Association (FTA) safety improvement directives as quickly as possible. Major revitalization work will take place along the entirety of the Orange Line – from the northernmost Oak Grove Station in Malden to the southern end of the line at Forest Hills – over 30 days, from August 20 through September 19.
“This closure will allow departments across the MBTA to make substantial improvements across the Orange Line,” Mass. Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler said at Wednesday’s press conference. “Not only will improvements that are made benefit Orange Line riders, but they will allow for an overall rehabilitated system that is safe and efficient for employees and neighboring communities.”
“We’ve listened to our riders, and we hear them loud and clear – bold action needs to happen in order to improve the MBTA at the pace that riders deserve. This 30-day surge will allow the MBTA to accomplish major and expansive progress on a number of priorities at the same time,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak.
“Thirty days of 24-hour access to the Orange Line [will replace] over five years of weekend diversions needed to address delays and slow zones. We can eliminate slow zones, prevent unplanned service disruptions, and increase the reliability of our service,” Poftak added. “[Most] importantly, we will provide the quality of safety and service that our riders deserve.”
Maximizing the amount of work able to be accomplished, this shutdown will progress a number of projects and maintenance along the entire Orange Line on an accelerated timeline, some of which include:
- The installation of upgraded signals and associated systems at Oak Grove and Malden Center Stations, allowing for improved safety and reliability
- The replacement of over 3,500 feet of 38-year-old Orange Line track and tie replacement work that will allow for the removal of speed restrictions, improving travel time for Orange Line riders
- The replacement of two crossovers that facilitate the movement of Orange Line trains, allowing for improved reliability and future capacity improvements
- Track repair, tie replacement, concrete work and more along the Southwest Corridor of the Orange Line, which will improve reliability; and future capacity improvements
The Orange Line provides approximately 1021,000 trips each day. The present ridership is approximately 49% of what it was prior to the start of the pandemic, in March 2020.
MBTA webpage designated for information about the planned Orange Line maintenance, upgrade work
To keep riders updated about this upcoming Orange Line work, the MBTA has created a specially designated webpage available at mbta.com/BBT2022.