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Evening, Weekend Closures Eyed To Speed MBTA Improvements01:48
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MBTA Red Line train. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
MBTA Red Line train. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Amid mounting criticism after recent train derailments, the Baker administration has outlined a plan to speed up the process to fix the aging MBTA.

Along with state transportation officials, Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced five key components to accelerate the T's $8 billion Capital Investment Program:

  1. "Explore scheduling more aggressive evening and weekend closures to expedite infrastructure improvements."
  2. Increase "proactive inspections and preventive maintenance."
  3. Examine changing laws to, for instance, increase procurement flexibility.
  4. Work with partners to expedite manufacturing and project schedules.
  5. Create a team of MBTA personnel and outside experts to make sure goals are reached on time or even ahead of schedule.

The new team would be funded with a budget request of $50 million.

The announcement comes two weeks after the most recent incident, when a Red Line train derailed, badly damaging signal equipment. And it comes less than a week ahead of contentious fare hikes set to take effect, on July 1.

Some officials, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, have called on the MBTA to delay those fare hikes until the Red Line is back to full service. The MBTA's fiscal control board has denied that request.

Red Line recovery work is expected to continue through the summer.

Speaking Tuesday, Baker said the derailment "created a massive headache" for the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the T.

"But this incident also created an opportunity for the T to reexamine some of its processes around project delivery," he said.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the new steps will improve reliability and service across the transportation system.

"We recognize that we can work faster," he said. "The acceleration plan will give us some of the tools which will allow us to be more aggressive with our capital investment and work with the urgency our customers demand."

Stephanie Pollack, the state transportation secretary, said had it not been for the T increasing investments in improvements over the last "three or four years," the current situation could be much worse.

"If the T hadn't already issued the design-build for the new Red Line signals, there would be no way to implement the accelerated recovery program that was in place to recover from the derailment," she said.

Pollack said the entire goal is to "transform what the MBTA is as an agency"-- to become a transportation system that customers are demanding.

With reporting by State House News Service

This segment aired on June 25, 2019.

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Quincy Walters Twitter Reporter
Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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