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.
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.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.