The MBTA recently announced that the entire Orange Line will be shut down for 30 days starting on August 19 to complete repair work and make safety upgrades. A virtual public meeting was also held on August 16, and more than 250 residents from the Greater Boston region tuned in to hear about the MBTA’s plans and ask questions.
“The Orange Line closure will be used to address a maintenance backlog and planned construction investments, all of which are focused on safety improvements and returning the system to a state of good repair,” the MBTA said in an August 12 release. “Thirty days of 24-hour access will replace more than five years of Orange Line delays and weekend diversions.”
Work includes upgrading signal systems, replacing track, and other work as directed by the Federal Transit Association, the MBTA said.
Free shuttle buses will be offered between Oak Grove and Haymarket/Government Center, as well as between Forest Hills and Back Bay/Copley stations. Riders are encouraged to use the Green Line between Government Center and Back Bay stations.
“While all shuttle buses are fully ADA-accessible, accessible vans will also be available for any rider who prefers van service upon request,” the MBTA said in the release. “MBTA personnel will also be available at every station to assist riders in requesting this accessible van service. Due to the free shuttle bus service, RIDE trips that begin and end within ¾ mile of the Orange Line will be free for RIDE users during the 30-day shutdown.”
Use of the Commuter Rail is also encouraged, and riders can show a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket for free service on all lines in Zones 1A, 1, and 2.
The MBTA also said that additional Commuter Rail stops will be made at Forest Hills, Ruggles, Back Bay, North Station, Malden Center, and Oak Grove.
MBTA Deputy Chief of Staff Angel Donahue-Rodriguez said at the public meeting that following the shutdown when service resumes on September 19, the “majority of trains that are going to be used will be new trains.” He also reminded people that there are closures on the Green Line as well between Union Square and Government Center from August 22 to September 18.
Donahue-Rodriguez said that 3500 feet of track will be replaced, and signaling equipment will be changed from analog to digital. All of the work will result in faster, safer service for passengers.
He recommended that all riders plan ahead with information that can be found on mbta.com, including the Trip Planner tool that can help people plan their trip with the available modes of transportation.
The Ride trips originating within 3/4 of a mile of the Orange Line will be free, he added, and free 30 day Bluebikes passes will be available to anyone beginning on August 19. More bikes will be added to the system, and there will be certain stations where bikes are guaranteed.
Additionally, the Highway Division of MassDOT has warned residents that there will be “increased traffic congestion as a result of roadway modifications necessary to support the MBTA’s replacement bus shuttles. The modifications will occur at numerous points along the shuttle routes and range from reconfiguring travel and turning lanes, curb work, installation of designated bus lanes at various locations, and changes to traffic signal timing at multiple intersections.”
The MBTA is urging residents to work from home if they are able and to also limit driving in the Orange Line area during the shutdown.
Kristie Horstetter, a member of the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) transit team, said that “we are working with our partners at the MBTA and across city departments to look at where we can make changes to our streets…”
Additionally, Donahue-Rodriguez said that no MBTA buses will be used as shuttle buses. Instead, an “external party” will be providing coach buses for the duration of the shutdown. All shuttles will be accessible, but there will also be about 20 accessibility vans that will supplement the shuttle service, and passengers can request these vans by speaking to a T ambassador in a red shirt at any Orange Line stop.
At the public meeting, Mayor Michelle Wu said that “the scale of disruption and this length of time is going to be very significant. We really need your help in spreading the word. I wish we weren’t here, but it has been decades and decades of getting to this point of needing to have big fixes.”
Wu also ensured that every rider who typically uses the Orange Line “is guaranteed a way to get where they need to go,” whether it be by shuttle bus, commuter rail, a free Blue or increased Silver Line service.
“We want to be able to convey that feedback and make changes in real time day-by-day as we go,” Wu added.
Donahue-Rodriguez said that the MBTA is “confident” that the work will be completed within the 30 day timeframe, as the materials are on hand, and the team is prepared to get to work.
The MBTA has also established a call center for residents—the number is 617-222-3200.
For more information, visit https://www.mbta.com/schedules/Orange/alerts.