Special to the Journal
On Monday, September 19, both the Orange Line service and Green Line Union Square service resumed.
The MBTA initiated the 30-day full closure of the Orange Line on August 19 to complete five years of improvements in 30 days and bring track and signal infrastructure into a state of good repair, while also addressing safety actions identified by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Orange Line track replacement work addresses FTA Special Directive 22-4 which mandates that the MBTA take actions related to maintenance of way. In Directive 22-4, the FTA noted that defective track conditions had forced the MBTA to implement slow zones where trains had to operate at restricted speeds. By replacing thousands of feet of rail during the Orange Line closure, the MBTA is eliminating the slow zones, and providing riders with faster and more reliable service.
“A tremendous amount of choreography, coordination, and hard work has been accomplished during these 30 days, including over a dozen projects to replace rail, track, signals, rail fasteners, and more that would have taken the T five years of nights and weekends to accomplish,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “We’ve also met our goal of eliminating six slow zones along the Orange Line, which creates faster and more reliable commutes for customers, and surpassed our goal for new vehicles with 72 new Orange Line cars ready to serve riders. Thank you to all of our partner municipalities along the Orange Line for collaborating with us throughout the entirety of these 30 days; to the MBTA workforce, contractor crews, shuttle bus operators, Transit Ambassadors, in-station personnel, and more for their dedicated work, skill, and service; and especially to our Orange Line riders – we’re excited to welcome you back to a faster, safer, more reliable ride tomorrow on a line comprised of predominantly new cars.”
“The 30-day Orange Line shutdown was a monumental opportunity which allowed the MBTA to conduct critical maintenance operations aggressively to help ensure travel on the MBTA is safe, accessible, smooth, and convenient,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler. “This historical undertaking would not have been possible without thorough and thoughtful multi-level coordination and collaboration, and I would like to thank MassDOT’s Highway Division for all their support, everyone who worked hard and spent countless hours helping to bring this project to fruition, and members of the public for all of their continued patience.”
“The MBTA’s Capital Transformation program has successfully applied its experience and lessons learned from previous surges as we brought together multiple other MBTA departments to continue the transformation of the Orange Line,” said MBTA Chief of Capital Transformation Angel Peña. “Our work during the Orange Line shutdown was rooted in our devotion to riders and their safety. This devotion will continue to drive our focus on quality, accessibility, modernization, and service for years to come.”
Work accomplished during the 30-day Orange Line closure includes:
• Elimination of six slow zones to allow for faster service at Jackson Square and Stony Brook, State and Downtown Crossing, Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay, Community College and North Station, and two slow zones between Assembly and Wellington along Dana Bridge.
• Replacement of 14,000 feet of rail and more than 2,800 rail ties.
• Replaced 3,500 feet of track.
• Installation of 400 rail fasteners called “Cologne Eggs,” which dampen vibrations and noise for a more comfortable ride.
• Upgraded signals at Oak Grove and Malden Center from analog to digital to reduce time and maintenance.
• A total of 48,000 feet of new signal cable laid, including 45,000 feet of signal cable within the Southwest Corridor, which will be activated in 2023 as part of the Signal Upgrades project when the new system is placed in service.
• Repaired and weatherproofed Sullivan Square station’s roof and canopy to protect it from the elements and the roadway above.
• Forest Hills station is now fully accessible from both the Washington Street and Banks Place entrances. New granite tiles have also been installed at station entrances along with a new skylight. Additional improvements include the polishing and sealing of the terrazzo, painting lobby ceilings, and completing construction of the redundant lobby elevator.
• Upgraded two Crossovers at Ruggles and Jackson Square so trains can seamlessly move between tracks.
• Updated Oak Grove’s accessibility by replacing the roof, doors, windows, stairs, granite, pavers, terrazzo flooring, and elevators.
• Readied 72 new Orange Line cars, an increase from 30 cars when the Orange Line shutdown first started.
• Riders should be aware that slow zones will remain in place for about a week after service resumes. This is because it takes time for the new track and ballast to settle as trains repeatedly run over the areas where the slow zone removal work was done.
The Orange Line provides approximately 101,000 trips each day with ridership approximately 49% of pre-pandemic ridership.
With the reopening of the Orange Line, the CharlieCard Store located within Downtown Crossing will increase its business hours to better serve MBTA customers. On Mondays, the CharlieCard Store will be open by appointment, and Tuesday through Friday it will be open 8:30 AM to 5 PM, serving all transactions.
Commuter Rail Updates
Because many Orange Line riders chose the Commuter Rail during the Orange Line closure, the T will add Oak Grove station to the Haverhill Commuter Rail Line schedule as a Zone 1A stop to offer riders an additional choice to their daily commute. Nine train stops at Forest Hills station that were added during the Orange Line shutdown will also continue on the Franklin and Providence/Stoughton Commuter Rail Lines, ensuring two trains an hour in the weekday morning inbound peak at that station. Passengers are reminded that regular fare collection will resume for Zones 1A, 1, and 2. Amended schedules can be found online at mbta.com/CR.
Green Line Extension Service
Green Line service between Union Square and Government Center stations will also resume at the start of service tomorrow. The T suspended service last month to facilitate the opening of the Medford Branch of the Green Line Extension in late November 2022 and to allow for continued work at the Government Center Garage project.
Completed work on the Green Line Extension includes:
• Adjustments to the overhead wire on the East Cambridge Viaduct that eliminated a temporary slow zone, allowing trolleys to operate at the system’s designed speed of 25 mph on a permanent basis.
• Final testing and integration of track switches, power lines, signal equipment, and digital communications between the Green Line’s Union Branch, the soon-to-be-operational Medford Branch, and the MBTA’s Operations and Control Center.
• Installation of the last remaining sound wall panels along the Union Branch and additional work items along the Union and Medford Branches’ including track, stations, and rights of way.
As with the Orange Line, Green Line riders should note that slow zones will continue to be in place temporarily for about one week where the work was performed.