Green Line Closures Loom as MBTA Tackles Slow Zones
First shutdown starts November 27, as shuttle buses replace trolleys from North Station to Babcock Street
The MBTA is ripping the bandage off, and Green Line riders will be the first to say “ouch.”
A major push to eliminate the T’s notorious “slow zones” will shut the Green Line and other parts of the subway and trolley system for days at a time over the next 14 months, beginning in just two weeks.
The Green Line’s main trunk will close from North Station to Kenmore and beyond to Babcock Street on the B line from November 27 to December 5 this year and January 3 to 12, 2024, the T announced last week.
The Green Line will also shut down from Copley to Babcock Street February 20 to March 8, 2024, and from Kenmore to Boston College July 31 to August 9, 2024.
Shuttle buses will replace trolley service during the closures, which will also extend to the Green Line’s C, D, and E Lines at various times. The T’s announcement, including the tentative schedule for the work, is posted here.
The Track Improvement Program will also close the Red, Orange, and Blue Lines for various periods during 2024. The T calls it “a major, bold initiative to eliminate all existing speed restrictions and fix tracks closer to a state of good repair” by the end of 2024.
This page will list transportation alternatives for each closure as plans are made. The first one, posted now: “Green Line B Branch: Service will be suspended between North Station & Babcock St, Nov 27-Dec 5, for Tunnel inspections. Shuttle Buses will be available between Babcock St and Copley/Back Bay. Riders can use Orange Line for alternate service downtown.”
The project is the biggest move yet by Phillip Eng, T general manager and CEO, who was hired last spring to tackle major safety and reliability problems that have been building up for years, bringing the dysfunctional transit agency to a state of near crisis.
“Slow zones” have been designated throughout the system due to track defects and disrepair, forcing trains and trolleys to travel as slow as three miles per hour and bringing riders’ journeys to a crawl. As of Monday, the T’s Speed Restriction Dashboard says 190 slow zones cover 31.1 miles of track, or 23 percent of the system. The Green Line as a whole includes 69 restrictions totaling 12.4 miles; the T doesn’t break out separate data for the B Line or other lines.
The Track Improvement Program will involve a wide range of work, including spot repairs, tie and rail replacement, and ballast replacement. The T says it will also hire specialized rail contractors to execute the work efficiently.
Shutting down large swaths of the T for days or weeks at a time will allow the work to proceed full speed ahead rather than in small increments overnight. The T recently completed a 16-day shutdown of the Red Line’s Ashmont branch and Mattapan Line that successfully eliminated slow zones there and appears to have been a pilot for the just-announced shutdowns.
“Our efforts to rebuild track infrastructure across the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green Lines will improve train speeds substantially, reduce delays and disruptions, enhance safety, and deliver timely, reliable, and consistent service for riders,” Eng said in the announcement.
Our efforts to rebuild track infrastructure across the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green Lines will improve train speeds substantially, reduce delays and disruptions, enhance safety, and deliver timely, reliable, and consistent service for riders.
It’s not clear how much work is needed on the portion of the B Line running through the Charles River Campus, sections of which have already been rebuilt in the last few years as stations were consolidated and remodeled.
Those projects, along with the rebuilding of the Comm Ave bridge over the Mass Pike in 2017-2018, also replaced trolleys with shuttle buses, largely successfully.
“As was the case with Green Line service suspensions in previous years, we expect ample buses to be provided by the MBTA to assist during this work,” says Billy Hajjar, director of BU Parking & Transportation Services. “With this in mind, there are no changes planned for the BUS [BU Shuttle] related to these shutdown periods.”
Eng promises a robust schedule of public meetings to keep riders informed and give them a chance to ask questions about the shutdowns and the Track Improvement Program. But the first such meeting is scheduled for January 8, 2024, more than a month after the first Green Line shutdown.
“Our team is deeply committed to seeing this through,” Eng said in the announcement, “and we thank the public for their patience as we move the T forward.”