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MBTA lifts global speed restrictions; Localized slowdowns remain

WCVB Boston 3/20/2023
green line © Provided by WCVB Boston green line

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority says global speed restrictions that have been in place along the MBTA's Green Line have now been lifted, hours before the Monday morning commute began.

However, targeted, more localized block speed restrictions remain in place across all lines, including the majority of the Blue Line.

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The MBTA said just before 9 p.m. Sunday that MBTA test trains have confirmed that all speed signs on the Green Line are in place to safely implement block speed restrictions.

"As each defect is validated and corrected as needed, that track portion will be able to have the speed restriction lifted," the MBTA tweeted. "Speed restrictions are in place for the safety of employees and customers."

a blue line subway train at the airport station © Provided by WCVB Boston a blue line subway train at the airport station

Sunday's update came a day after the MBTA said crews identified 30 speed signs along the Green Line that need to be relocated in order to implement block restrictions.

According to the MBTA, block speed restrictions are a stretch of track "that may include multiple defects that need to be investigated or mitigated as each defect is validated and corrected," MBTA Interim General Manager Jeff Gonneville said at a Friday afternoon news conference.

"We are taking a conservative approach as we continue to work through this issue," Gonneville said.

The MBTA presented a series of pie charts that showed the remaining block speed restrictions that will remain in place.

The Blue Line, with service from downtown Boston to Wonderland station in Revere, has the most proportion of track that must have a reduced speed, at 80%.

The MBTA's monthly speed restrictions report, released at the end of February before global speed restriction measures were put in place by the transit agency, put the amount of speed-restricted Blue Line track at 1.6%. January's report put the speed-restricted track on the line at 0%.

A spokesperson for the MBTA said Friday that the restrictions were added "as part of the ongoing process of validating and verifying inspection data collected during the previous geometry track scans."

"Riders should continue to plan for longer headways and additional travel time throughout the system," Gonneville said.

"Some of these speed restrictions are going to require corrective actions and will take longer than others to resolve and lift," Gonneville said. "We are actively working on that now and working through those plans."

Once the end-to-end speed restrictions are lifted on the Green Line, about 16% of that line will be subject to slow zones, according to MBTA data presented Friday. Slow zones cover 22% of the Mattapan Line.

The T said Friday that 24% of the Red Line and 22% of the Orange Line are still under slow zones, a combined rate of 31.9% that did not budge over the course of the workweek.

The MBTA did not provide any details about where the newly imposed slowdowns are located.

The MBTA said it intended to unveil a more dynamic dashboard that provided riders will more real-time information on speed restrictions. Gonneville said the dashboard would be unveiled at next week's MBTA board meeting.

The widespread mandatory slow zones, announced and ordered last Thursday evening after MBTA officials determined they did not possess sufficient documentation to prove they fixed previously identified track defects, continue to saddle riders with sluggish, less reliable and more crowded trips.

The Department of Public Utilities, which serves as the state agency responsible for MBTA safety oversight, inspected a section of Red Line track on Monday, March 6 and observed concerns with the quality of the tracks. On Tuesday, March 7, DPU Rail Transit Safety Director Robert Hanson sent MBTA officials six letters ordering corrective actions. On Thursday, March 9, the MBTA implemented a systemwide slowdown, then replaced universal speed restrictions with a vaguely defined patchwork on the Red, Blue and Orange Lines the following morning.

In a statement to WCVB, the Massachusetts governor's office said Gov. Maura Healey has been in contact with MBTA management about the speed restrictions and instructed them to conduct the track inspections as quickly and safely as possible while keeping the public regularly updated.

"We are in the final stages of our search for the MBTA General Manager and will have more to share soon," Karissa Hand, the spokesperson for the governor, said in a written statement.

Information from the State House News Service was used in this report.


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