Work on the Orange Line is now more than a third complete, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak told Gov. Charlie Baker during a check in on Sunday, according to WCVB.
The Orange Line has been shut down since Friday, Aug. 19, and will remain closed through September 19. Officials announced the 30-day closure only a few weeks ago, and since then, it has been a scramble to put in place alternative shuttle bus routes, advertise other rail options, and rework the typical routes tens of thousands of commuters are accustomed to.
Poftak told Baker work was 37% complete as of Sunday, WCVB reported.
Baker met with Poftak, Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler and other transportation officials at State Street Station at 2 p.m. on Sunday for a progress report on the work, viewing 900 feet of new rail that has been installed between the State Street and Downtown Crossing stations, according to WCVB.
The shutdown comes in the face of increasing public scrutiny, a federal safety investigation, and calls for more reliable public transit service following a summer plagued with chaotic safety incidents.
“We did not make this decision lightly. We know this closure will be disruptive, and I want to thank everyone for their patience,” Poftak said at a recent press conference. “At the end of this 30-day closure, we look forward to providing our riders with a safer and more reliable travel experience.”
Poftak said Wednesday he does not anticipate the agency reinstating normal service levels on the Red, Blue, and Orange Lines in the fall after reductions were put in place earlier this summer because of staffing issues.
As concerns about traffic and lengthened commutes swirled ahead of Monday, Aug. 22, the first full weekday of the closure passed with few issues, at least from the perspective of state and city leaders who monitored the progress of hundreds of shuttle buses driving through Boston.
At the same time, fake MBTA messages of “No Orange Line service, have your limousine driver pick you up early,” “Use your helicopter,” and “Stay at your beach house” cropped up around the city, parodying the distinctive style of real MBTA posters.
Many have expressed concern that the Orange Line shutdown will negatively affect the start of the school year for many students.
To accommodate student riders, Boston public schools announced that there will not be any consequence for students who are tardy to school within reason. Furthermore, a number of MBTA staff members wearing red vests will be at stations to help guide students with information on where to go.
Roughly 105,000 people rode the Orange Line every weekday, according to MBTA data last updated in June, coming and going from the line’s 22 stations stretching from Jamaica Plain to Malden.
A public outcry swelled this summer after a passenger died on the Red Line, several trains collided, a train caught fire over the Mystic River, a series of trains ran away at maintenance yards and mechanical issues were found all across the board.
Though MBTA officials maintain that much of the work the agency is hoping to complete in the next month has already been on their radar, the shutdown comes in the face of a federal safety inspection, a mass of safety incidents and a series of state legislative oversight hearings focused on spending and management decisions.
The Federal Transit Administration’s safety inspection into the MBTA, launched in April, has since honed in on delayed track maintenance, staffing, runaway trains at maintenance facilities, and certifications. It is only the second time the federal agency has launched an investigation of a transit system.
U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss said on WCVB’s program “On the Record” on Sunday that he is joining fellow Massachusetts congressmen Stephen Lynch and Seth Moulton at a meeting with MBTA officials on Monday.
“Bay Staters deserve reliable, affordable public transit,” Auchincloss said during the program. “With the bipartisan infrastructure law, with the American Rescue Plan, we’ve provided significant funds at the federal level to Massachusetts to get that done. But the MBTA is not meeting the mark right now for my constituents.”
Auchincloss said he is not ready to call for a federal takeover of the transit system, WCVB reported.