“Tracking the truth” timeline and documents
FOR 19 MONTHS, the MBTA allowed South Shore commuter trains to run at top speed over rails supported by crumbling concrete ties even though the transit authority knew all of the ties needed to be replaced because of defects. T officials say passengers were never in danger, but recently released documents indicate agency officials knew far more about the problem on the Old Colony lines than they were letting on … Read the full story »
|FALL, 1992||MBTA puts out bid for track construction for Old Colony rail with specifications using wooden ties because of two prior bad experiences with concrete.|
|NOV., 1992||According to a suit filed by the T, Rocla meets with T officials to try to convince them the process and manufacturing of concrete ties has cured previous problems. MBTA suit.|
|FEB., 1993||After another letter from Rocla promising price reductions, a 50-year lifespan and quality assurances, MBTA officials rewrite bid specifications for ties to be made of concrete, the suit says.|
|JAN., 1995||MBTA awards tie contract to Rocla, who lobbied for the change to concrete and offered specifications for the contract bid. The T buys 147,000 concrete ties at a cost of $9 million. The contract comes with a warranty of just 15 years – about half the life of wooden ties – and despite other major transit agencies getting 25-year warranties from Rocla for the same product that is supposed to last a half-century.|
|SEPT., 1997||Old Colony Commuter Rail service begins on two lines to Boston’s South Station, from Middleborough/Lakeville and Plymouth/Kingston.|
|JUNE, 2006||After trying unsuccessfully for two years to get Rocla to stand behind its warranty for more than 200,000 defective ties, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority sues the company. The case is settled out of court and the records sealed. According to budget filings by MTA officials, Rocla will supply replacement ties but the MTA still will spend nearly $125 million.|
|2007-2008||Amtrack begins replacing more than 176,000 defective concrete ties along its Northeast Corridor at a cost of $110 million, including $50 million from federal stimulus money. The agency also settles with Rocla but only for the cost of replacement ties and not including shipping or labor for installation. The defective ties that both Amtrak and MTA bought from ROcla were made a the company’s Bear, Delaware plant, the same plant that the MBTA ties came from. See “Backtracking” Summer, 2009.
|SPRING, 2007||The first failure of ties on the Old Colony line are observed as the winter freeze melts, less than 10 years after commuter rail service is resumed.|
|WINTER, 2007-2008||Failure rate of concrete ties along both lines increase.|
|SPRING, 2008||MBTA begins replacing cracked, crumbling and broken ties. No pubic announcement is made or speed reductions put in place on the tracks.|
|JUNE 5, 2008||In a meeting with the MBTA and Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail, the private company managing commuter rail service for the T, Rocla officials say all 147,000 are likely defective and will have to be replaced “in the near future.” In the lawsuit that is later filed, T officials also say Rocla admits the ties never should have been marketed with a 50-year lifespan.|
|JUNE 11, 2008||In a demand letter, the T cliams Rocla offers to sell the T replacement ties at a cost of up to $15.5 million — $6.5 more than the original price, not including labor, and refuses to honor its warranty. Rocla officials have never returned calls for comment or said anything publicly about whether they think the warranty claim is valid or not. MBTA lawsuit.|
|DEC. 5, 2008||In a letter to Rocla and its lawyers, the MBTA demands the company honor its warranty. The company refuses, according to the suit. Officials have told CommonWealth that Rocla threatened to file bankruptcy if they are forced to stand behind the warranty.|
|WINTER 2008-2009||Track inspectors observe a rapid increase in the number of concrete tie failures along both Old Colony lines. Workers are quietly dispatched to replace broken ties on evenings and weekends, with no service interruptions or public announcements.|
|SPRING, 2009||Lab tests determine concrete ties are defective because of manufacturer design error.|
|APRIL, 2009||CommonWealth magazine begins making inquiries about the faulty ties after a reporter observes some broken concrete along the side of the tracks while riding the commuter rail. MBTA officials, including then-General Manager Daniel Grabauskas, do not return calls for comment and decline comment when interviewed at public events.|
|MAY 21, 2009||Lawyers at the powerful Boston law firm Ropes & Gray LLP, send a notice to Rocla outlining their position and the intent to file suit.|
|JUNE, 2009||Then-Transportation Secretary James Aloisi admits the defective ties are a growing problem and acknowledges Rocla’s threat to shield itself with bankruptcy.|
|JUNE, 2009||In its first response to calls and emails for comments over several months, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo says problems with ties are minimal and do not affect schedule or safety. “To date, railroad personnel have identified problems with less than 4,000 of the more than 150,000 concrete ties on Old Colony,” Pesaturo writes despite T officials being told a year earlier all ties would need to be replaced. Read the emails here and here.|
|JULY, 2009||CommonWealth, in its Summer issue, first reports the story about the extent of the problem and, using industry estimates and other similar projections, pegs the cost at nearly $100 million. T officials dispute the estimates of cost and how many ties are affected.|
|AUG., 2009||Daniel Grabauskas resigns as T General Manager, unrelated to the tie issue.|
|SUMMER-FALL 2009||MBTA increases the number of slow orders along the Old Colony lines and increases the pace of replacing defective ties.|
|SEPT., 2009||Pesaturo continues to insist there is no widespread problem with the concrete ties while announcing bus service will be used during non-peak hours on the Middleborough line so workers can replace broken ties. He also says Rocla is expected to pay for the ties. “There are about 147,000 ties on Old Colony. Inspectors have identified fewer than 7,000 that need to be replaced,” Pesaturo writes. “Meantime, the T fully expects the tie manufacturer of the original ties to honor its obligations under the warranty.”|
|WINTER, 2010||MBTA officials quietly begin preparing bid documents and procuring 187,000 wooden ties to replace all concrete ties on the Old Colony lines, according to a briefing for legislators.|
|MAR. 22, 2010||Richard Davey, general manager of MBCR, is tapped to take over as T general manager.|
|APRIL 9, 2010||Davey announces the MBTA will replace all 147,500 defective Rocla ties on the Old Colony lines over the next two years. Buses will be used to transport commuters during nonpeak hours. The Greenbush line, which does not have apparent defective ties, will also be affected when ties are replaced along the Braintree-to-Boston stretch. Commuters on all three lines will have to take the Red Line from Braintree. Read the email from Joe Pesaturo outlining the project. Read a letter from Senate President Therese Murray about the effects of the construction.|
|APRIL 26, 2010||CommonWealth obtains a letter from Davey to South Shore lawmakers pegging the cost of the replacement ties at $91.5 million, which will be paid through revenue bonds while the T pursues a settlement with Rocla and seeks federal money.|
|MAY 4, 2010||The MBTA files suit in Suffolk Superior Court against Rocla seeking treble damages for the $91.5 million cost of replacing the ties.|
New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s suit against Rocla.
Correspondence between CommonWealth and T spokesman Joe Pesaturo:
June 9, 2009 11:32 a.m.
June 10, 2009 1:20 p.m.
June 10, 2009 2:03 p.m.
September 9, 2009 10:26 a.m.
September 9, 2009 10:33 a.m.
September 9, 2009 11:17 a.m.
September 9, 2009 4:40 p.m.
September 18, 2009 6:34 p.m.
September 21, 2009 12:47 p.m.
April 9, 2010 1:08 p.m.
April 9, 2010 1:41 p.m.
April 9, 2010 1:54 p.m.
April 9, 2010 1:56 p.m.
April 9, 2010 2:47 p.m.
April 28, 2010 11:49 a.m.
Briefing for legislators regarding the defective ties.
Letter of intent to file suit against Rocla.
Letter from Senate President Therese Murray regarding the proposed repairs.
Letter from General Manager Richard Davey to South Shore lawmakers regarding the cost of the project.
Lawsuit filed by the MBTA against Rocla seeking treble damages for cost of replacing the ties.Rocla’s response to the MBTA lawsuit.