Thursday, May 23, 2024

A sign points riders to trains at the MBTA’s Lechmere green line T station in Cambridge’s North Point neighborhood Mach 21, 2022. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The MBTA planned to lift global speed restrictions on green line trains in time for the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston on Sunday and other weekend festivities, interim general manager Jeff Gonneville said at a Friday press conference, vowing that the T will be ready to bring passengers where they need to go this weekend.

Those hopes were dashed Saturday with an announcement that the speedup goal had been missed.

The MBTA has identified 30 speed limit signs that need to be relocated on the green line, and that work is taking place today,” spokesperson Lisa Battiston said in a Saturday email. After that work is completed, the MBTA will rerun test trains on the entire line. The MBTA apologizes for the continued disruption to service for its riders.”

That meant the green line corridor’s linewide speed restrictions would stay in place at least through the end of service Saturday. The MBTA “at this time cannot lift the green line linewide speed restrictions, as further evaluation and validation of specific locations are needed,” Battiston said.

The speed restriction encompassing the entire length of the green line was only lifted Sunday after festivities. An email announcing the switch to block speed restrictions – for 18 percent of track – came at 8:36 p.m. Sunday.

Even on Friday, the changes Gonneville signaled were limited. “We are taking a conservative approach as we continue to work through this issue,” he said. “I’m optimistic that [Saturday] we can be in a position to lift the global speed restriction on the green line at the start of service.”

The global speed restrictions was to be replaced with block speed restrictions – shorter lengths that need to be fixed or validated as in good repair so restrictions can be lifted.

About 25 percent of the total T tracks are under some speed restriction: The red line has heavy rail and light rail restrictions for 24 percent and 22 percent of tracks, respectively; and 22 percent of the orange line remains restricted. When the global speed restriction is lifted on the green line, 22 percent of tracks will stay slowed.

A graphic provided by the MBTA shows current speed restrictions on its rail lines.

The limits have trains moving between 10 to 25 miles per hour. At their peak, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority trains travel 40 mph.

Speed restrictions were initiated last week after the Department of Public Utilities asked for documentation for a stretch of the red line after tests. The MBTA was unable to provide documentation and discovered that some was missing.

“A full and complete investigation is in process” by an independent party, Gonneville said Friday, after which he and the MBTA will take steps to avoid a repeat of the problem.

He said he understands the frustration felt by customers and that it “was a bold move” to put speed restrictions in place. Some areas of track will need corrective action or repair, while most just need to be inspected and validated, he said, expressing satisfaction with the “amount of progress we’ve made,” because there are a lot of measurements to be taken. “Each one of these very specific defects has a very specific detailed number of measurements that need to be taken.”

At this point, 74 percent of the track has had third-party inspection, and 48 percent has been inspected by T teams.

The investigation has been ongoing alongside repairs and measurements, Gonneville said.

“As we’ve been going through the investigation process here, we had determined the scope of what needed to be done and then the level of precision that needed to be taken to take these exact measurements,” he said. 

No changes within the MBTA organization have been made based on the investigation so far, but “if we need to make some personnel moves or personnel changes, we’ll do that,” Gonneville said, but that the emphasis now is getting the T fixed and the investigation complete.

This post was updated March 18, 2023, with changes throughout to reflect the MBTA’s announcement of conditions Saturday. It was updated again March 19, 2023, with new information from the MBTA.