MBTA mulling nighttime shutdowns to fix narrow GLX tracks

Local News

Gauge issues on the Green Line Extension could be fixed as early as mid-November under a proposal from the team that built the GLX.

MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng spoke to reporters during a press conference last week and offered an explanation of what went wrong with the Green Line Extension. Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe Staff

The MBTA is considering a plan that could fix the narrow rails along the Green Line Extension as early as mid-November, T General Manager Phil Eng said Tuesday.

After announcing last week that roughly two-thirds of the GLX rails were built too narrowly and need widening, Eng told the MBTA Board of Directors that contractors are looking to start repairs on Nov. 1.

The team that built the GLX has proposed having crews make repairs between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. for 10 to 14 nights, Eng explained. He noted that the MBTA is also looking into providing shuttle buses to replace train service while that work is underway.

“It’s our commitment to make sure that we address this timely, address it properly, and do it once and for all,” he said.

Yet Eng also emphasized that the T is still considering the contractors’ proposal, so nothing is set in stone.

“The reason I wanted to share the timelines is I want people to know that this is not going to be something that continues on for months and months, or even longer,” he said. “It is something that can be addressed in a matter of weeks.”

Half of the Union Square branch and 80% of the Medford branch needs to be regauged and made wider, Eng announced last week. He acknowledged that the MBTA knew as early as April 2021 that parts of the GLX were too narrow, but said he only found out about the issues recently himself.

While the T is still looking into what caused the issue, Eng suggested the rail ties and pre-installed plates — the wooden supports underneath the tracks and the metal plates that anchor them — were likely to blame. He also critiqued previous T leadership for failing to conduct a thorough investigation when the issues first came to light in 2021.

“Projects always have issues that arise,” he said. “It’s a matter of tackling them when you identify them and tackling them in a timely manner so we don’t end up having to do this after service is running and after the public is already enjoying that service.”

An MBTA spokesperson confirmed last week that two individuals with senior roles on the Green Line Extension project are no longer employed by the T, and Eng has since tapped Chief of Capital Program Support Maureen McDonough to serve as acting GLX program manager. 

“The organizational changes I made were because I did not believe that the prior team and some of the folks that were still on that team took the appropriate action at the appropriate time,” he explained at the MBTA board meeting. 

Gov. Maura Healey likewise offered a scathing rebuke of former T officials who reportedly failed to address gauge concerns before the GLX opened last year.

Speaking on WBZ’s “Keller @ Large” Sunday, she said the blame is not on the workers who installed the tracks, but “with senior officials at the T under the prior administration who knew information, didn’t disclose it, and most importantly, didn’t address it.”

Despite taking aim at her predecessor’s administration, Healey said she has “no information to suggest” that former Gov. Charlie Baker knew about the GLX track issues either.

“This is on management, who really, for whatever reason, lacked either the competence or the wherewithal to do what was necessary to run the T,” she said. 

Amid the latest transit troubles, a new UMass Amherst/WCVB Poll found that respondents still used words like “unreliable,” “broken,” and “mess” to describe the MBTA, despite improvement in the agency’s public approval.

Speaking on “Keller @ Large,” Healey acknowledged that some level of skepticism is valid, telling host Jon Keller that she also finds the status quo “unacceptable.”

“And that’s why every day, I’m going to bring it in terms of what we need to do to address this,” Healey said. “It will take time, but we absolutely need to make sure that we’re addressing it.”

Originally posted 2023-10-24 19:52:14.