Metro, Featured Story, The T

Baker Announces $50 Million Plan for MBTA

A $50 million plan to expedite the progress of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) capital construction projects was announced by Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday. 

The plan comes after two derailments on the T this month, causing the public and government officials to demand that major changes be made to the transportation system. Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell specifically called on Baker to make changes to the T.

The “Acceleration Plan,” as it is called in the governor’s press release, is designed to build on the MBTA’s current five-year, $8 billion construction plan dedicated to investing in vehicles, tracks, signals, power sources, and maintenance. Baker’s five-part plan is expected to decrease the time spent on projects. 

The five points that Baker announced in his plan include looking into scheduling more “aggressive” evening and weekend closures for construction; increasing inspections and preventative measures to fix issues before they arise; pursuing changes in law to remove restrictions and barriers to force multipliers, which help to produce more output; negotiating with partners that can accelerate contracts and shorten project schedules; and creating a new team of MBTA employees to oversee the projects.

“The MBTA has made tremendous gains since the winter of 2015 to control its operating costs, strengthen the pipeline to design and build capital projects, and take steps to improve service by focusing investments on core system infrastructure,” Baker said in the release. 

“In order to capitalize on that progress, this acceleration plan will allow the T to continue its investments at a faster pace, with greater focus on service improvements to provide a safe, reliable means of transportation that supports our economy, and gets people where they need to go.” 

Increased closures would allow work to continue without interruption and multiple projects to be furthered simultaneously, making the shutdowns more efficient. Upcoming diversions listed in the release on the Green Line are the D Line, affecting service weeknights through December and select weekends between August and September, as well as the C Line, which will be affected weeknights June through August, according to the release. The MBTA will plan more extensive shutdowns for evenings and weekends in 2020.

Inspection crews would be provided with additional support such as specialized mechanized inspections that use ultrasonic, geometric, and optical technology and can detect issues that cannot be seen with the human eye. The MBTA currently conducts daily, weekly, monthly, and annual preventative inspections, the release said, but the extra support will allow for more an increase in frequency. 

The proposals to change laws that remove impediments to force multipliers for infrastructure improvements include allowing the MBTA to use an alternative project delivery method and the design/build method on all repair projects instead of only on those with budgets more than $5 million. The MBTA could also seek to offer financial incentives for speeding up the timeline of construction, and will communicate with the “contractor community” to explore options for compressing schedules. 

The new team that Baker proposed would work on both capital and operating projects. Some roles include additional flaggers and other construction workers, more bus operators for diversions in service, additional inspection crew workers, and outside consultants to provide training to MBTA staff that can be used to start using data-driven strategies for construction and better practices for inspection and maintenance.

Featured Image by Chloe McAllaster / Heights Senior Staff

June 27, 2019