MBTA: Orange Line Shutting Down for M/W Blitz

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
The MBTA plans to shut down the Orange Line for 30 days to accelerate major track and maintenance work.

The MBTA plans to shut down the Orange Line for 30 days to accelerate major track and maintenance work.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) announced on Aug. 3 plans to shut down the Orange Line for 30 days to accelerate major track and maintenance work on the line—colloquially known in the rail industry as a ”maintenance-of-way blitz.”

Beginning at approximately 9 p.m. on Aug. 19 and running through Sept. 18, major revitalization work, including track replacement, upgraded signal systems and station improvements, will occur on the line to “improve service, safety and reliability on a faster timeline,” the MBTA says.

The projects will be delivered more than five years faster than originally planned, the MBTA says, which added that it will also be able to accomplish required track maintenance associated with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) directives as quickly as possible.

On July 14, the MBTA reported on its progress to address ongoing safety concerns raised during an FTA Safety Management Inspection (SMI) in June.

Over the past several weeks, the MBTA says it has implemented safety plans to address track conditions and maintenance, updated safety trainings and directives and addressed staffing shortages.

Projects that will be accelerated during the month-long shutdown of the Orange Line include:

  • Replacement of more than 3,500 feet of 38-year-old rail, and tie replacement work that will allow for the removal of speed restrictions, improving travel time for Orange Line riders.
  • 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.
  • Installation of upgraded signals and associated systems at Oak Grove and Malden stations, allowing for improved safety and reliability.

The plan to shut down the entire Orange Line during this 30-day period, the MBTA says, will “provide work crews with unencumbered access” to the entirety of the Orange Line’s 20 stations, more than 121,000 feet of track, and infrastructure, allowing a substantial amount of work to be accomplished. Following these 30 days, the MBTA says riders will experience faster trips and better service on a predominately new CRRC-built Orange Line fleet.

Service on the Orange Line, which, according to the MBTA, provides approximately 101,000 trips each day with ridership at approximately 49% pre-pandemic levels, is expected to resume on Monday, Sept. 19.

“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 replaces more than 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. Perhaps most important, we will provide the quality of safety and service that our riders deserve.”

The MBTA is also planning additional upgrades and maintenance construction work this fall on the Green, Red and Silver Lines, and on the Commuter Rail.

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