MBTA’s accelerated work on Blue Line picks up more speed

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
About $600 million worth of work is taking place on MBTA’s South Coast Rail.

With the goal of expediting safety and reliability improvements through a focus on core infrastructure investments, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) announced a 14-day full closure of the Blue Line between Bowdoin and Airport stations beginning Monday, May 18, to allow for accelerated track and infrastructure work to take place. During this accelerated work, shuttle buses will replace service between Bowdoin and Airport stations for 14 consecutive days, including both weekdays and weekends, beginning at the start of service May 18 through the end of service on Sunday, May 31. 

“The work accomplished during this closure will lead to numerous benefits, including increased train speeds, shorter travel times, and a more reliable service schedule,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Our main focus continues to be safety, especially during the COVID-19 situation, with the MBTA’s shuttle plan including measures that promote social distancing. We know these diversions can be an inconvenience, but the service suspension allows us to expedite critical track and tunnel infrastructure work and remove the restrictions that currently limit train speeds.”

This work comes as part of the MBTA’s plan to quicken the pace of infrastructure projects in 2020 and the MBTA is assessing whether other projects can be further accelerated. This Blue Line work was previously scheduled to be accomplished through a series of weekend diversions later this year, and doing the work now allows its completion at a time when both transit ridership and traffic on the roadways that shuttle buses will use is much lower than it is likely to be by the fall.

Work accomplished during this 14-day shutdown builds off of track replacement work that took place at Bowdoin during last fall’s weekend diversions as part of the 2019 capital acceleration plan. This current work includes: 

  • The installation of a new truck pad near Airport Station;
  • Track replacement work along the Blue Line that will remove a long-standing speed restriction between Maverick and Aquarium, effectively reducing trip times by up to 51 seconds between Airport and Maverick (one way);
  • Harbor tunnel leak mitigation and drainage work between Maverick and Aquarium that will reduce water-/leak-related service delays, improving reliability;
  • Fire standpipe relocation between Maverick and Aquarium. 

Accomplishing this work during 14 consecutive days allows this work to be finished over 2 months sooner than previously planned. Sections of track between Bowdoin and Airport are also currently being scheduled to close in August 2020 for additional work on harbor tunnel improvements.

Following track work, the MBTA typically implements speed restrictions as a safety precaution, and customers should expect these to last for several days while the T monitors the proper settlement and consolidation of new track and stone ballast. Speed restrictions are lifted once engineers have confirmed proper settlement has occurred. 

Blue Line construction is part of the MBTA’s $8 billion Building a Better T program to replace subway fleets, modernize stations, and upgrade tracks, signals, and switches. In 2019, the MBTA executed a plan to expedite projects for customers, delivering projects 2.2 years faster than originally planned across the Red, Orange, and Green lines. Building off of this accelerated work, the MBTA launched its 2020 Infrastructure Acceleration Plan in February 2020 aimed at improving service, safety, and reliability on faster timelines through temporary shutdowns and diversions in service for several subway lines and the Commuter Rail. The 2020 Plan will deliver projects 8 years faster than originally planned, and will result in track replacement, upgraded intersections, and station improvements.  

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Categories: Commuter/Regional, Intercity, ON Track Maintenance, Passenger, Rail News, Railroad News, Track Construction, Track Maintenance
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