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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
1 Apr 2023
Gayla Cawley


NextImg:MBTA makes progress on lifting Blue Line speed restrictions

The MBTA is slowly making progress on lifting speed restrictions on the Blue Line, but has not made much headway on speeding up the rest of the subway system.

As of Saturday, 56% of the Blue Line was speed-restricted, representing an improvement over the 77% rate from the previous week. Seventeen slow zones are in place, covering 6.9 miles of track, which amounts to roughly three fewer restricted miles than before, MBTA data show.

Despite the progress, the Blue Line still remains the most speed-restricted line, in terms of the percentage of track impacted, a vast difference from February, when there were only two restrictions in place, covering 1,046 feet of track.

“MBTA crews have been working throughout the rapid transit system in recent weeks, including four nights of track improvement work this week on the Orange Line north of North Station,” an MBTA spokesperson said.

“While the MBTA is pleased to have reduced the percentage of Blue Line track with speed restrictions, the T is also focused on the Red Line, where crews this weekend are performing critical rail and tie replacement work along the track in multiple areas along the Braintree branch.”

The spokesperson said this work, along with four more nights of Red Line work next week, “will help the T continue its work to address speed restrictions.”

This upcoming work will take place Sunday between Braintree and JFK/UMass stations, and Tuesday to Thursday, beginning at 9 p.m., between North Quincy and JFK/UMass stations. Shuttle buses will replace Red Line train service.

The MBTA is aggressively targeting the Red and Blue Lines this month, in terms of addressing speed restrictions during evening and weekend shutdowns.

Interim General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville has said these two lines were the most heavily impacted by speed restrictions, following the systemwide 10–25 mph slowdown implemented by the T on March 9.

The so-called global restriction, lifted on most lines the following day, was due to negative findings from a Red Line track inspection conducted by the Department of Public Utilities and shoddy paperwork from the MBTA that brought the safety of the entire system into question.

Still, more than 200 speed restrictions remain throughout the subway system, covering 34 miles, or 25% of total track, according to MBTA data.

While the percentage of speed-restricted track decreased from the 27% rate seen on March 23, the date the MBTA launched its daily speed restriction dashboard, the number of slow zones increased, from 221 to 228.

The Orange Line work referenced by the MBTA only resulted in a net reduction of one speed restriction, from 40 to 39, and has not decreased the amount of track impacted, 5.6 miles or 25%, according to the data.

Little progress has been made on the Red Line, which quickly replaced the Orange Line as the slowest following last summer’s 30-day shutdown, with a net reduction of only one speed restriction and 0.2 fewer miles of restricted track.

The Red Line had 105 speed restrictions as of Saturday, covering 11.8 miles, or 25% of total track.

And the Green Line, which was last to have its end-to-end restriction lifted, had 67 restrictions, covering 9.7 miles, or 18% of track, as of this weekend.

By comparison, slow zones covered 10.1 miles, or 7.5% of the entire subway system by the end of February.

MBTA worker working on a section of the Blue Line near the airport in January. (Courtesy / MBTA)

Courtesy / MBTA
MBTA worker working on a section of the Blue Line near the airport in January. (Courtesy / MBTA)

Speed restrictions, by percentage of total route mileage, on all four MBTA subway and trolley lines as of 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1, 2023. (Courtesy / MBTA)

Courtesy / MBTA
Speed restrictions, by percentage of total route mileage, on all four MBTA subway and trolley lines as of 6:30 p.m. Saturday. (Courtesy / MBTA)