Green Line shutdowns coming for track repairs

Green Line shutdowns coming for track repairs

Many stretches are old, require full replacement

THE MBTA’s FISCAL AND MANAGEMENT CONTROL BOARD on Monday gave staff the green light to periodically shut down chunks of the Green Line to replace entire stretches of track, which will enable the repair work to be completed quickly and at less cost but at greater inconvenience for passengers.

Eric Stoothoff, the T’s deputy chief operating officer for infrastructure, said railroad tracks typically last 20 to 25 years and the last time a significant amount of track was replaced on various branches of the Green Line was in the 1970s and 1980s.

Stoothoff unveiled a map showing full track replacement (which also involves replacement of two feet of gravel and dirt below the tracks) is needed on significant stretches of the B Line to Boston College and the D Line to Reservoir. The map indicated the end of the E Line to Heath Street requires full track replacement, as does a stretch of track between Boylston Street Station and Government Center. Only the track itself needs to be replaced between Arlington and Kenmore, according to the map.

The C Line to Cleveland Circle and the stretch between Government Center and Lechmere are in good shape, according to the map.

Stoothoff asked the board how it wanted the T to handle the repairs. He outlined six different options: overnight when the T is shutdown, from late evening to overnight, on Sundays, on weekends, full closure during the day, and full closure during the day and night.

Stoohoff said the more limited options would cost more and take longer. He said 3,000 feet of full track replacement would take three days with full closure, two entire weekends with weekend closures, and 38 nights with closure from late evening to overnight. In each case, passengers would be bused around the portion of the track where work is being done.

All four board members who were present voiced support for shutting down service and doing the work as quickly as possible. “This is the time to be bold and do things the right way,” said board member Brian Shortsleeve.

Stoothoff said more work needs to be done before the T returns to the control board with a completed plan and timetable for the track repairs.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack urged MBTA staff to move cautiously with Green Line shutdowns. She said night work may be necessary where bus service around the construction sites may not be possible where roads for bus service don’t run parallel to the tracks. She also urged the staff to keep station closures to a minimum. She noted that the Washington, DC, subway system shut down entire lines to do repair work and discovered that many of the passengers found other ways of getting to work and never came back.

“We don’t want them to give up on the Green Line while we’re doing the work,” Pollack said.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Stoothoff said the T has improved its ability to replace track. He said 24,800 feet of track has been replaced since March 2016 with little or no impact on passengers. He said replacing 500 feet of track used to require shutdown of service in the area for an entire weekend; now it can be done in three hours during the overnight, Stoothoff said. Complete track replacement cannot be done that quickly, however, he said.

Stoothoff said the T is also laying more and more continuous track, avoiding track connections which are susceptible to wear and make the clickety-clack sound that passengers hear as the train travels along. He said the T would like to install more continuous track to improve performance and avoid stress on the rails.

“Eliminating that clickety-clack is huge to the performance of the system,” he said.

  • QuincyQuarry.com

    For some funny reason, I doubt that all many Green Line riders are to be forever upset over a couple of three day closures a year so as to complete over a mile’s worth of complete track and gravel bed makeovers, much less the several or so years of a couple of annual three day closures that would be needed to redo a whole Green Line run of track south of Kenmore station.

    Reasons for this view include that many of these same Green Line riders probably already suffer far more inconvenience care of the often poor condition of existing track.