BOSTON (WHDH) - State lawmakers started their own investigation Monday morning into a series of safety issues with the MBTA amid a federal investigation into the system’s safety.
The committee looking into the T’s failures called on MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak to testify as an initial witness.
“We acknowledge that safety incidents have occured and that our service levels aren’t where we want them to be due to staffing challenges,” said Poftak.
The MBTA and its officials have been under intense scrutiny as Federal Transit Authority investigators continue to search for ways to improve the troubled system.
“We’ll be ordering both the MBTA and DPU to address these critical safety deficiencies immediately,” said a member of the Federal Transit Authority.
Recent safety issues include a slow-speed accident of two Green Line cars, several incidents of runaway trains, derailments and smoking cars, as well as an accident back in March when the doors to a Red Line train closed on a man’s arm, dragging him more than 100 feet to his death.
The Federal Transit Authority ordered immediate fixes to improve safety, and the MBTA said it has completed several upgrades including getting employees re-certified, issuing training policies and updating rules for shifts and overtime.
Poftak testified that the T did not wait to take action when the feds ordered them to make changes.
The MBTA said that the organization has already instituted its own changes, including implementing a fatigue management plan for operations staff, lifting speed restriction on Orange Line between Back Bay and Mass Ave. to speed up trips for riders by about one minute, authorizing a $10,000 sign-on bonus and organizing “internal hiring blitz” to attract more heavy rail dispatchers.
“Catching up on decades of under investment and deferred maintenance will take time. It cannot and will not happen overnight or even in just a few years,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler.
While the State House hearing is still underway, the recommended changes could cost the MBTA around $300 million. MBTA officials said that $200 million of the funds needed for the changes isn’t in the current budget. The MBTA said it would work with state administration and the governor to make up the difference.
Lawmakers are already planning an additional hearing for August, around the time the FTA is expected to hand down its final report.
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