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MBTA to advance Blue Line repair work downtown; is looking for other projects that can be done sooner with current low ridership

The MBTA announced today it's going to shut the Blue Line in downtown Boston for two weeks this month to do track repairs originally scheduled for a series of weekends later this year.

The shutdown of the Blue Line between Bowdoin and Aquarium starts May 18. Buses will replace trains during that time, with the T saying it will make sure to have enough buses to ensure social distancing for the few people - almost all essential workers - now riding the Blue Line.

This Blue Line work was previously scheduled to be accomplished through a series of weekend diversions later this year, and doing the work now allows its completion at a time when both transit ridership and traffic on the roadways that shuttle buses will use is much lower than it is likely to be by the fall.

The T is now looking at whether there are other repair projects it can do during the relative downtime that the current societal slowdown might allow. In a statement, T General Manager Steve Poftak said:

The work accomplished during this closure will lead to numerous benefits, including increased train speeds, shorter travel times, and a more reliable service schedule. Our main focus continues to be safety, especially during the COVID-19 situation, with the MBTA’s shuttle plan including measures that promote social distancing. We know these diversions can be an inconvenience, but the service suspension allows us expedite critical track and tunnel infrastructure work and remove the restrictions that currently limit train speeds.

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Do the roads. Do the bridges. Fix as much as you can while the roads are still relatively empty. One lane on 95 or 93 with this level of traffic, in these times, will be enough.


Borderline minutiae - but I've been on the roads every day since this has started in an "essential" role. Traffic has picked up significantly for two weeks; had to take 93S down to 95 around 2PM and it didn't have that creepy empty feeling anymore. I have no idea where all these other people are driving to, and it's certainly not rush hour, but the roads are filling back up.


I scraped most of MassDOT's active highway traffic counters, and the one on 93 in Wilmington shows traffic fell by 50% and has increased no more than 7% from the low week (which is pretty negligible). See here.

Of course, because you are not using Approved Highway Terminology, I can't tell which portion of I-93 you are talking about. If you mean "I took the Expressway south to 128" then MHD didn't have an active 15-minute data stream, but Route 24 seems like a decent proxy for the Expressway and traffic there has also been flat since the initial drop.

FWIW: Approved Highway Terminology:

  • Turnpike is the Pike, or the Turnpike, or the Mass Pike, but never I-90. The Ted is the east end to the airport and Eastie.
  • Route 128 runs from the Braintree Split to Gloucester. It is never, ever to be referred to as I-95.
  • 93 runs from Downtown to New Hampshire.
  • In between 93 and the Expressway lies the Central Artery (also acceptable, Big Dig or Tip).
  • The Expressway runs from Downtown to the Braintree Split. The midpoint is the Gas Tank.
  • The Mystic River Bridge is called the Tobin by some new arrivals
  • The Sumner runs in and the Callahan runs out. It's okay if you forget which is which is which and refer to them as the Sumner-Callahan, but do at least make an effort to learn.
  • Route 3 can refer to either the state-signed or federal-signed portion, if potential for confusion context should be given (I was taking Route 3 up to Lowell or down to the Cape). Likewise, 95 beyond 128 can be referred to as 95 with context.
  • Down refers to south: 3, 24, 95, the Cape, Rhode Island, and New York City and places to the south.
  • Up refers to Northern New England and places beyond.
  • Out refers to places in the Midwest, i.e. west of Worcester. Generally, if you take the Pike, you're going out. (Out to Springfield, out to Albany, out to the Berkshires, out to Mass MOCA.) If you go to Vermont, though, that's up. So you'd take Route 2 out to Wachusett, but up to Brattleboro. Unless you get on 84. Out to Sturbridge, down to Hartford.

Good candidate for the "Boston English" section. Of course, if you don't already know all this, you shouldn't be here.


There is some point in Maine past which “down” no longer means “south” and starts meaning “Northeast.” This dates to the days when a large percentage of people living on the coast of Maine either earned their living from the sea or hung out with people who did, and when seafaring was dependent upon sail and wind, and the prevailing Westerly winds meant that heading northeast along the coast was heading downwind. It is dying out, but you still hear it from time to time: “Next week I’m driving down to Bangor,” said in Portland, for example.


No, pcannon is right about the area they were talking about (not Wilmington). I've had to drive some for work when not WFH, and volume on the Expressway has noticeably picked up in the last week or two.


Is that 7% of the 50% level, which would increase the level to 53.5%, perhaps negligible, or 7% of the original100%, to 57%, which is starting to become significant?


And also I like the person above who says "no I've seen it with my own eyes!"

Anecdata is a wonderous thing. Next they'll tell me about the thousands of protestors at the State House.

53% of normal traffic is still a lot of cars. If it was down to 10%, like some transit systems, that would prove your point better.

Leave it to the T to maintain their unbroken record of idiotic decisions. They had all this time to make those repairs while people were sheltering in place, so when do they decide to shut it down? May 18, the very target date for many people to go back to work, including this Blue Line rider. Thanks a lot T.


I think this should be taken as a clue that the May 18th date might be extended again.


Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

I would like to play Devil's Advocate and point out that there are possible reasonable explanations. Track work - planned for later this summer. I'm guessing rails, maybe ties or anchors/fasteners. The material may have been ordered from fabricators for some date closer to the planned work. This may have been the earliest they could have gotten delivery changed to.


But they're also still planning a shutdown in August to do tunnel work. Why not just get this shit over with and spare us more misery?

Trying to get shuttles at Maverick is an experience I would never wish on anyone.


I don't understand how it's not suitable for professional workers to congregate but fine for road workers. If you're wearing a safety vest are you immune to the virus?


So, road and rail workers aren't professionals? Wow - who pissed in your Moxie?


It's safer being outdoors in the open air where virus disperses quickly than indoors with HVAC systems circulating the same stale air throughout a enclosed area. For example, see this article https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/496483-evidence-mounts-that-outsid...

For me the most frustrating thing about Blue Line work is the shuttle routes. For example with the tunnel is closed, MBTA runs every single shuttle from Government Center, to Maverick, to Airport, instead of just having one set of buses going Gov-Airport and another set going Mav-Airport and possibly another set going Gov-Mav. Their route wastes time for everyone.

Since this May 18 work is closing Bowdoin-Aquarium, I wonder what route they'll take. At least Bowdoin is not far from both Government and State, which is where most Blue Line passengers are actually trying to go.


The release Adam excerpted had work between Bowdoin and Aquarium, which to me means Aquarium is open. Going to the T website, however - they're closing everything between Bowdoin and Airport!


The shuttle route is circular, if your going outbound you board and then ride it around, no changing at govt center. Second, Adam has completely messed up in this article with the extents of the shutdown.

The Boston.com article says they are runnig some trips express, skipping some stops between Airport and Goverment Center.

On top of that, the route cycling means that people who use Aquarium and State (which is most people), and Government Center are totally boned going outbound. No service to State or Aquarium, so Government Center is going to be a royal shitshow in the evening.


It seems like the simplest shuttle route would be to run outbound shuttles "backward" - start at Aquarium, west on State St, pick up State St, turn onto Cambridge St, pick up Gov't Ctr, stop at corner of ... ummm.... New Chardon (?), pick up Bowdoin, down the hill to Haymarket Square (not Haymarket Station) and into the Callahan.
The only trouble then would be for however many people want to get on somewhere up the hill and get off at Aquarium. Keep a couple of buses on a backwards loop: Aquarium > State > Government > Bowdoin > Aquarium.
It's either that or make State St two-way.


That's how anything with unions works around here. Find a choke point... stand in it and expect to be called a hero. Boston Strong!


... but this decision impacts commuters from some of the hardest hit areas from Covid-19, Chelsea and East Boston, who are likely still commuting into work.


The kids are out of town for months. I'm sure I'm not the only Brighton-living, Down-town worker of a company that has already announced it'll be months before the office is back up and running full steam.



Politicians and the Globe are going to rail against this - Exhibit C in how minorities always get the short end of the stick (Exhibit A: Covid deaths, Exhibit B: police enforcement of social distancing).


You thought the Longfellow was done, right?

Wrong! They need several more weekends of shutdowns to rebuild the approach at Charles Station.

Why wasn't this done during the five year bridge project? Who the fuck knows? I guess it would have made too much sense? This should be fast-tracked, and while they have it shut down, they should replace the track and power systems from Broadway to Harvard. They could probably do this in a few weeks with a 24x7 push.


This won't be happening for at least two years.
Why wasn't it part of the Longfellow work? Maybe it wasn't as needed? Also, there was a pretty heavy push to keep the Red Line running throughout the Longfellow job - maybe this work would have made that impossible?


Some of that work was done when Charles/MGH was rebuilt. Lead paint removal, replacing rusted bolts/rivets, welding in replacement steel, concrete patching. The level of work was likely a 10 year bandaid and now phase 2 is needed. Why a Red/Blue connector isn't in the works with all the money the MBTA wasted on repeated studies for the damn thing I digress.

WBUR's coverage fo the Blue Line closure for repairs also noted that a number of other ongoing or scheduled MBTA projects are being pushed out because of supply chain problems as well as staff issues both inside the MBTA organization as well as with their contractors due to COVID-19 illness or quarantine. So no matter what schedule they come up with it will be tempered by the current issues and restrictions all business will face.

And since some of the stations in the city are in close proximity they do plan to run a one-way loop bus shuttle.

Keep in mind there are alternates... Silver SL3 to Airport station then pick up the Blue from there.


SL3 to Airport? Have fun STILL dealing with tunnel traffic. I still get notifications of 20+ minute delays on the SL3, though not daily like I used to.

This doesn't help the people who are taking the Blue Line because they work in hospitals or other places downtown and live in East Boston. Nobody's going to walk to South Station or add a transfer and expose themselves more.

Every underground station.

Of the accessibility projects that the T still needs to do, this is by far the most important -- where the busiest bus route intersects the busiest rail line.

The green line, all branches combined, is the third busiest rail line. Red line is top, followed by OL, then Green. Split out of the e branch and it's even lower.

Regardless, Hynes is currently in design for an overhaul pending BPDA approval of the Parcel 13 project directly above it.


I saw survey crews along mass ave and they had some of their equipment set up INSIDE the stairs at that stop. Maybe there’s something in the works?