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Gov. Baker blames MBTA woes on economy, construction firm

Passengers on the platform of Kenmore Station wait for a MBTA Green Line trolley. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Passengers on the platform of Kenmore Station wait for a MBTA Green Line trolley. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Gov. Charlie Baker Monday fended off attacks from Democrats about the MBTA's recent string of safety woes and service cuts.

"There's always opportunities to point fingers," said Baker, the top Republican elected official in Massachusetts. "I would much rather worry about trying to make the things that need to get fixed, fixed."

Baker also noted the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has suffered the same kind of staffing challenges as other public and private employers during the pandemic.

"The T is not immune to all the issues associated with labor that are affecting virtually every part of our economy," Baker said after hosting an event to highlight his tax relief proposal. "Anybody's who's been to an airport and tried to fly in or out of an airport knows that airports are having a very hard time delivering on the requirements and the services and the personnel that they're supposed to have to get planes in and out."

Baker also blamed a construction company, HYM Investment Group, for the diversion of Orange and Green Line trains through downtown Boston. Traffic was halted under Government Center for days because of concerns about a deteriorated column in the Government Center parking garage, which is in the process of being demolished.

"HYM had two years to inspect and make decisions about how they were going to actually do the process associated with taking down that garage," Baker said. "I think the T did yeoman work working with HYM over the course of the weekend to make sure that beam — which belongs to the building and belongs to HYM — was shorn up and secured so there wouldn't be issues associated with the morning commute."

MBTA officials and HYM offered competing accounts of the problem that prompted the T to take a section of its subway system offline late last week. The transit agency blamed an ongoing demolition project at the garage, and the company instead cited "years of water damage." Trains resumed service through downtown on Monday.

Baker also suggested his administration will propose plans later this year for new ways to fund the MBTA after it runs out of federal relief funds from the pandemic.

With reporting from State House News Service's Chris Lisinski

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