T will reopen Orange Line after an unprecedented month-long closure

“To the extent that there are people who have lost faith in the T, I hope this is a step towards regaining that trust,” MBTA CEO Steve Poftak told reporters. Sunday.

But the work on the Orange Line tracks is part of a list of dozens of corrections that the T will have to make in the coming months under directives from the Federal Transit Administration, which began investigating MBTA this summer after a series of serious security breaches, including the dragging death of a red line passenger in April.

A modern system will require more investment in T’s day-to-day operations, the FTA found, and up to 2,000 new employees – a huge task for an agency facing a budget gap of more than $ 200 million starting next summer.

Poftak said the agency is planning detours of parts of the green line and red line this fall so the T can run more smoothly in the future. The Union Square branch of the Green Line, part of the Green Line Extension, will also reopen on Monday after a four-week closure.

Angel Peña, MBTA’s head of capital transformation, credits MBTA for doing what has never been done before: shutting down an entire line to get a noticeable leap on the huge maintenance backlog. But, he cautioned, this 30-day arrest alone will not solve the T’s problems.

“If we’re serious about modernization, that means more sacrifices,” he said during a track work tour on Friday. “Do we have the basics? Yes. Should we continue with maintenance? Absolutely.”

Despite waking up earlier and trying to plan ahead, the bikers said they were still late for work or school as they relied on the shuttle buses that replaced the Orange Line service. Municipalities along the line have worked to create new bus-only lanes, cycle paths and eliminate parking and car traffic along certain stretches to accelerate commuters and encourage alternatives.

While frustrating, the shuttle bus system seemed to work well enough to avoid any crisis. The commuter railroad, which the T made free in and around Boston, and the Bluebikes bike-sharing system, for which free passes were offered, saw an increase in passenger numbers.

A construction worker on the night shift walked the tracks with a flashlight near Tufts Medical Center in Boston.David L. Ryan / globe staff

Orange Line’s work that took place during the 30-day shutdown was a huge effort – and the T says tremendous success – to fix the problems that have plagued the line for years.

Before any work could begin, the teams had to shovel, scrape, and take away three to four inches of grease accumulated on top of the fasteners they aimed to replace, said Desiree Patrice, deputy head of MBTA capital transformation.

Beneath the grease between Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay stations was a stretch of track so bad it forced Orange Line rail operators to reduce their speed to 10mph, down from the normal 25, in the last three years, one of six slow zones along the 11-mile subway line.

This summer this area of ​​the orange line attracted the attention of federal inspectors who found “excessive wear and tear evidence” and “corrosion” along the north and southbound tracks and ordered the T to make corrections.

Once the workers removed the grease, they washed the area, removing any remaining debris, Patrice said. Then they got to work removing the clips, lifting the rail about 24 inches off the ground, and finally unscrewing and replacing about 400 colony eggs – the egg-shaped fasteners that sit between the rail and the concrete to cushion the noise and vibrations near hospitals – before permanently replacing the track.

On Friday, the splendor of the new eggs made them look like a completely different piece of equipment than their rusty predecessors. The old track that lay on the ground waiting to be hauled away had been filed down on the sides after years of friction with the train’s wheels, while the new one was perfectly rounded where it should have been, Patrice said. All that remained was to tighten the bolts.

Workers dressed in reflective MBTA-style vests with an X on their back made their way down a narrow staircase in the dark tunnel at the Tufts Medical Center station at around 7:30 am on Friday. For many, it was their last day in that tunnel during the project before the test trains started running over the weekend.

With his left hand on the rail and his right hand around a power tool, a worker bent down and carefully screwed each of the four bolts onto a new egg, then tightened them with a long wrench. Then the three crew members loaded their cart – a latticed platform with wheels that sit on each rail – and dragged it forward as they set out in search of the next bolts to tighten with their flashlights.

Most of the work – pouring new mortar, securing the rail to the ground – was done by hand, with the help of large machines that help transport supplies from just four access points along the line, Peña said. At any point in the past month, 200 to 300 MBTA employees and contractors have been working along the Orange Line tracks.

New and old trains of the Orange line.David L. Ryan / globe staff

Before the work started, Peña said he held 20 meetings and planning sessions on how to best choreograph everything. Since closing began, it has been on four calls a day: 7:00 am with contractors, 8:00 am with top management, 4:00 pm with contractors, and 5:00 pm with top management.

Speed ​​limits along the line will remain in effect on Monday. Poftak said the trains should be able to move at full speed within a week of reopening.

Other changes to the MBTA service during shutdown will also remain in effect. Haverhill Line commuter trains will continue to stop at Oak Grove Station and other commuter trains will stop at Forest Hills Station, Poftak said, allowing two trains per hour to pick up passengers going downtown there during the ride. early morning.

Although Orange Line trains can travel faster and most of them will be new, they will make fewer journeys than usual. In response to a June Federal Transit Administration discovery that its operational control center was dangerously understaffed, the MBTA cut subway service on the orange, red, and blue lines by more than 20 percent. The cuts were supposed to be in effect for the summer, but the T was unable to hire enough shippers to restore service and said subway service will also be reduced for the fall, frustrating motorcyclists.

Peña is already looking at the next round of improvements for the Orange Line, including building more access points for heavy construction machinery so teams can get their jobs done faster.

“There is a lot more to do,” he said.

Tonya Alanez of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

The orange line will open on Monday.David L. Ryan / globe staff

Taylor Dolven can be contacted at taylor.dolven@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.

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