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Baker tours Orange Line repairs as MBTA prepares for Red Line shutdowns

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 11/9/2019 Lisa Kashinsky
a close up of Charlie Baker in a baseball hat: BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Governor Charlie Baker watches repairs being made to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Governor Charlie Baker watches repairs being made to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
  • Charlie Baker standing next to a train station© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Governor Charlie Baker talks with T officials while watching repairs being made to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • a close up of Charlie Baker wearing a hat© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Governor Charlie Baker watches repairs being made to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Charlie Baker standing next to a train© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Governor Charlie Baker watches repairs being made to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • a group of people wearing costumes© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Workers make repairs to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • © Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Workers make repairs to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • Charlie Baker et al. standing in front of a subway© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Governor Charlie Baker (R) talks with MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak while repairs are made to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • a group of people standing in front of a building© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Workers make repairs to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • a group of people standing in front of a building© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Workers make repairs to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • a man standing next to a train© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

    BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 9: Governor Charlie Baker watches repairs being made to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing November 9, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

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Six weekends of Orange Line repairs are coming to an end — giving straphangers a brief respite before the shutdowns shift to the Red Line next weekend.

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MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak and Gov. Charlie Baker acknowledged riders’ frustrations with the weekend closures while touring track work at Downtown Crossing on Saturday — but deemed the service disruptions necessary to improve service.

“One of the things I hear a lot from people in the system is ‘move faster, fix it faster,’” Baker said, snapping his fingers for emphasis. “I think in many ways the service disruptions are something Steve and these folks will do everything they can to minimize and to mitigate for customers. But the flip side of this is you get a really big opportunity inside these stations and in other parts of the system to do significant work that would be really hard to do if you just did it when you had the opportunity at night.”

Prompted by the Red Line derailment in June that took out a signal box and led to disruptions throughout the summer, Baker said, “We basically concluded that while there would be disruptions it was more important to get the work done more quickly.”

The accelerated Orange Line repairs — replacing 2,250 feet of track, adding new signage and making other station improvements over six weekends in October and November — didn’t go off without a hitch. A construction accident in October delayed workers from completing that weekend’s project, keeping a key portion of the Orange Line closed and sowing chaos during that Monday morning’s commute.

Riders were additionally hampered this Saturday evening when Commuter Rail service at North Station was disrupted due to a “communications system failure,” the MBTA said.

The sixth and final weekend of the Orange Line repairs was a “supersized” closure so the T could cover more ground with two crews on the tracks — one at Haymarket and one at Downtown Crossing — prompting an extended shutdown from Sullivan Square to Ruggles that will lift Monday morning. Workers were drilling away on the tracks when Poftak and Baker visited Downtown Crossing late Saturday morning, donning neon yellow safety vests as they walked the platform to observe the repairs.

“We really appreciate our customers’ patience,” Poftak said afterward. “We’re pleased about the amount of work that we’ve been able to get done.”

Red Line closures begin at 8:45 p.m. Friday and will run through Dec. 15 — skipping the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Shuttle buses will run between Kendall/MIT and Broadway during construction. Poftak said the MBTA will be monitoring the shuttle service and will bring in more buses if needed — potentially up to 80 at peak service, pulled in from the T’s own fleet and from third parties.

The repairs should also help the MBTA weather the winter — and avoid a repeat of its disastrous bout with Mother Nature in 2015.

“Every time we’re able to do these improvements it increases our level of reliability and our level of resilience,” Poftak said.

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