Special to the Gazette
Last Friday, the MBTA announced that 50 percent of the work taking place along the Orange Line during the 30-day closure is complete. Additionally, the scheduled work is on schedule overall.
Overall, work teams have completed:
• 44% of rail replacement;
• 49% of track renewal / tie replacement;
• 84% of special track work, like track work at crossovers; and
• 22% of cologne eggs and rail fastener work.
Earlier in the project, crews completed rail replacement between Downtown Crossing and State Street stations over an unencumbered two-day period, which was about 900 feet of track. This track replacement was one of the six slow zones that the MBTA was aiming to address during the Orange Line shutdown. To put this into context, when MBTA crews work during overnight hours when the subway is closed, they are able to replace about 39 feet of track a night after materials are staged and the third rail power is cut. The rest of the slow zones are also in the process of being completed.
As of this week, an additional four of the MBTA’s projects have been completed: crossover improvements at Ruggles station, rail welding at Forest Hills station, canopy work at Sullivan Square station, and security enhancements at North Station. Crossover work at Jackson Square will also be finishing today. Tie replacement also continues between the Dana Bridge and Community College station. Work teams near Wellington station began de-stressing rail and continued electrical connections at special track work locations. At the Tufts Curve, crews are continuing to replace cologne eggs, which are fasteners that allow crews to directly affix rail to the concrete pads utilized on certain parts of the Orange Line. The signal upgrades at Oak Grove and Malden stations have also reached 47% completion.
As progress is made on track and signal upgrades, work teams are also leveraging the Orange Line shutdown to complete opportunity projects. Over this past week:
• Crews have continued to complete punch list items at Sullivan Square.
• Testing of the new security enhancements at North Station is now complete.
• The replacement standpipe for fire protection at Tufts station is being painted and is near completion.
Additionally, 56 new Orange Line cars are now available for service. This means that, when service re-starts on September 19, Orange Line riders’ commutes will be on predominantly new cars. The MBTA is actively working to get a full complement of new Orange Line cars ready for the restart of service.
The Orange Line closure continues to address a maintenance backlog and planned construction investments, all of which are focused on safety improvements and returning the system to a state of good repair. Thirty days of 24-hour access will replace more than five years of Orange Line delays and weekend diversions.
The major revitalization and safety work to take place on the Orange Line during this 30-day shutdown will deliver a number of projects, including track replacement, upgraded signal systems, and more, over five years faster than originally planned. The MBTA will also accomplish required track maintenance associated with Federal Transit Association (FTA) directives as quickly as possible.
This shutdown will maximize the amount of work able to be accomplished and will progress a number of projects and maintenance along the entire Orange Line, which will improve service, safety, and reliability for riders, including:
• The replacement of over 3,500 feet of 38-year-old Orange Line track and tie replacement work that will allow for the removal of speed restrictions, improving travel time for Orange Line riders.
• The replacement of two crossovers that facilitate the movement of Orange Line trains, allowing for improved reliability and future capacity improvements;
• Track repair, tie replacement, concrete work, and more along the Southwest Corridor of the Orange Line, which will improve reliability; and
• The installation of upgraded signals and associated systems at Oak Grove and Malden stations, allowing for improved safety and reliability.
The Orange Line provides approximately 101,000 trips each day with ridership approximately 49% of what it was prior to the pandemic.