MBTA to take surge approach to Orange Line work, will shutdown line for 30 days

Aug. 4, 2022
By shutting down the line, MBTA will accelerate track and tie replacement, replace special trackwork, repair tracks and concrete and install upgraded signals.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) will accomplish five years’ worth of weekend maintenance work during a 30-day shutdown of its entire Orange Line. The Orange Line shutdown is set to start at 9:00 p.m. Aug. 19 through Sept. 19. MBTA says the shutdown will result in improved service, safety and reliability.

“This closure will allow departments across the authority to make substantial improvements across the Orange Line,” said Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler. “Not only will improvements made benefit Orange Line riders, but they will allow for an overall rehabilitated system that is safe and efficient for employees and neighboring communities.”

In June, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a series of special directives to MBTA to improve its safety culture and remedy safety concerns. One of the directives found MBTA left inadequate time for track and systems maintenance, which created a growing backlog of delayed critical maintenance. In late July, MBTA announced a diversion of the Orange Line between Oak rove and Wellington Stations for track and signal work was being rescheduled with MBTA exploring options to accelerate work on the line.

“We’ve listened to our riders, and we hear them loud and clear – bold action needs to happen in order to improve the MBTA at the pace that riders deserve. This 30-day surge will allow the MBTA to accomplish major and expansive progress on a number of priorities at the same time,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Thirty days of 24-hour access to the Orange Line replaces over five years of weekend diversions needed to address delays and slow zones. We can eliminate slow zones, prevent unplanned service disruptions and increase the reliability of our service. Perhaps most importantly, we will provide the quality of safety and service that our riders deserve.”

What will be accomplished during the shutdown

Ridership on the Orange Line is approximately 49 percent of what it was prior to the pandemic. However, the line hosts approximately 101,000 trips each day. Shuttle buses will be provided and MBTA encourages use of commuter rail and bus options.

MBTA says riders will experience faster trips and better service by allowing crews unencumbered access to the Orange Line. Crews will:

  • Replace more than 3,500 feet of 38-year-old Orange Line track and perform tie replacement work that will allow for the removal of speed restrictions, improving travel time for Orange Line riders;
  • Replace two crossovers that facilitate the movement of Orange Line trains, allowing for improved reliability and future capacity improvements;
  • Perform track repair, tie replacement, concrete work and more along the Southwest Corridor of the Orange Line, which will improve reliability; and
  • Install upgraded signals and associated systems at Oak Grove and Malden Stations, allowing for improved safety and reliability.

“The MBTA’s Capital Transformation program has used the surge approach successfully to make significant improvements across the Green Line over the last two years,” said MBTA Chief of Capital Transformation Angel Peña. “We are applying this experience and lessons learned as we transform the Orange Line. This surge will ensure rider safety with a continued focus on the quality of our employees and the service we offer.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.