Despite recent revelations that the state’s beleaguered transit system will require about $24.5 billion in investment before it’s in “state of good repair,” and ahead of a year’s worth of sporadic closures, the MBTA’s general manager nevertheless remains optimistic about the future.
The hefty price tag required to bring the agency up to standard does not reflect money that will need to be raised immediately, GM Phil Eng explained, but does reflect the cost of providing a rebuilt and modernized transit agency. It will all pay off in the end, he said.
“I wouldn’t have taken this role if I didn’t believe there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Eng told WCVB. “I am fully confident that we can, not only rebuild our workforce, which has been a big effort, but we can rebuild our infrastructure and we can rebuild it in meaningful ways.”
Last week, the MBTA’s board of directors released a capital needs analysis and found that fixing the problems plaguing the T would cost $10 billion more than was estimated just four years ago.
According to information provided by the MBTA, in order to achieve a “state of good repair,” the agency will need to repair or replace 64% of its capital assets, including 72% of subway track, 55% of “rolling stock” like train cars, 35% of facilities, 28% of equipment, 22% of structures, 78% of power assets, 80% of commuter rail signals, 9% of commuter rail track, and 72% of subway signals.
Next year there will be an estimated 188 days of planned diversions across the T’s four subway lines in order to eliminate the slow zones impacting 23% of tracks and bringing trains to a snail’s pace.
MBTA Board Member Thomas McGee described the capital needs analysis findings as “sobering.”
The agency doesn’t need the full $24.5 billion by tomorrow, Eng said, but having the figure means the T has a baseline off of which to seek funding in future budgets.
“This is going to help us as a planning tool to be able to set priorities. To be able to talk about bigger picture longer term needs of the T, because the idea is to be able to use this now to have those conversations on long term funding and the ability to prioritize capital needs (and) state of good repair,” he said.
Eng is not the first MBTA general manager to deliver lofty promises about the future, he acknowledged, but he isn’t looking to his predecessors as examples, he said.
“I look back on history just to see decisions made, I look back on history to see where we can improve, but what we’re really looking at is how do we bring in some best practices that other agencies are using, how do we give our employees proper training,” he said.
Gov. Maura Healey, who gave Eng his job early in her administration, said Sunday appearance on NBC that she has confidence in the former Long Island Rail Road president.
“He’s been terrific, I think, as general manager,” she said. “He brought in a new management team. He hired over 1,000 new workers at the T. He’s delivered on every single project that he’s undertaken.”
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