MBTA officials took a decisive step Wednesday toward an unprecedented, roughly month-long shutdown of the Orange Line that will upend commuting for tens of thousands of commuters and the entire greater Boston region starting this month.
The MBTA’s Board of Directors, in a special meeting, unanimously approved a contract authorizing up to $37 million on shuttle bus service to replace trains across the Orange Line, a major subway artery that carries more than 100,000 riders.
The contract language overseers approved calls for the shuttle buses to run from “on or about Aug. 19, 2022 through Sept. 18, 2022.” An MBTA spokesperson confirmed after the meeting those are the dates planned for the shutdown.
Officials provided few other details about the plan, which had not been floated publicly before the Boston Globe reported Tuesday night that MBTA leaders were seriously considering a 30-day Orange Line shutdown amid myriad safety problems and federal orders to address long-delayed maintenance.
“The idea here is that by shutting down a line in its entirety, it allows us to do multiple projects, it allows us round-the-clock access,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, noting that a federal investigation slamming the T’s safety failures noted that crews often have limited windows in which to perform maintenance.
Poftak said he will provide “greater detail to the public” at a 12:30 p.m. press conference with Gov. Charlie Baker and Transportation Secretary Steve Poftak.
MBTA board members approved spending between $27 million and $37 million on the contract with A Yankee Line, Inc., which will provide up to 200 shuttle buses at peak hours to replace subway service. Poftak told board members the shuttle buses would run free of fares for riders.
It’s not clear how much the total project will cost once the maintenance price tag is incorporated. An $11.3 billion infrastructure bond bill on Baker’s desk makes $400 million available for the MBTA to respond to the Federal Transit Administration’s safety directives.
The 30-day shutdown will replace five years of work, and in the meantime, officials are encouraging the use of the Commuter Rail. During the shutdown, Charlie Cards can be used in Zones 1, 1A, and 2 of the Commuter Rail during this time. When the work is completed, most of the Orange Line fleet will be new cars.
The scope of the work is slated to include replacing tracks and replacing rail ties, which will allow the T to ease speed restrictions, especially between Tufts and Back Bay.
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