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Downtown Red Line equipment derailment disrupts morning commute

Commuters wait as a Red Line train pulls into Park Street Station. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Commuters wait as a Red Line train pulls into Park Street Station. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

Red Line riders weren’t supposed to see shuttle buses until this weekend. There’s been a change of plans.

Shuttles are replacing all downtown Red Line service this morning — from Harvard to Broadway — after a piece of “track work equipment” derailed in the tunnel just south of Park Street station around 4 a.m., according to MBTA officials. A single six-car train running back and forth between Harvard and Alewife stations is the only thing providing Red Line service north of the closed off stretch. And it’s unclear how long it will take before normal service resumes. So, prepare yourself for a slow commute. (Update: The MBTA tweeted shortly after 8 a.m. that the shuttles were being phased out and "service is resuming with delays.")

  • MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said crews need to re-rail and move the piece of equipment off of the main line. After that, they need to make repairs to the track. “The cause of the derailment is under investigation,” Pesaturo added.
  • Remember: Make sure to adjust your weekend plans, too. Shuttle buses are scheduled to replace train service between Alewife and Kendall/MIT on both Saturday and Sunday so crews can work on removing a pestering slow zone near Harvard station, among other things.
  • Zoom out: Delays from slow zones on the Red Line have recently skyrocketed to their worst levels in recent recorded history. According to data tracked by Transit Matters, total delays from speed restrictions across the line jumped from around 24 minutes to around 40 minutes over the past two weeks. That’s 10 minutes worse than the delays in the aftermath of the 2019 Red Line derailment that destroyed several signal sheds. While derailments make headlines, it’s slow zones that really bog down people’s lives on a daily basis.

That sound you hear is thousands of East Boston residents — and anyone with Memorial Day or Fourth of July flights planned — letting out a sigh of relief. MassDOT announced yesterday that it’s cutting down its planned four-month closure of the Sumner Tunnel to just eight and a half weeks, from July 5 through Aug. 31. It’s adding a second similar closure in 2024, but state officials say the two shorter closures will be better for commuters and businesses than the previously planned May-through-Labor Day shutdown.

  • Why? According to MassDOT, the period from July 4 to Labor Day historically has the lowest traffic volumes of the whole year. Plus, it’s outside of the school year.
  • Worth it: The new plan costs more, but Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver told State House News Service he’s “happy to pay those kinds of costs to reduce those impacts.”
  • The back story: The work on the 87-year-old tunnel is overdue. As MassDOT says, it’s “well beyond patches and repairs: the only way to keep it in service is with a top-to-bottom restoration.” That means a total overhaul of its interior walls, ceiling and surface. Since last May, officials have closed down the tunnel almost every weekend besides holidays. Those weekend closures will continue running through June until the first big shutdown.

Most — but not all — of Massachusetts’ prospective mobile sports betting operators will be ready for the sector’s big launch two weeks from today. Out of the 11 companies that initially applied to run betting apps in the state, only seven will launch on March 10.

  • Here are the applicants who are poised to start first:
    • Bartsool Sportsbook
    • BetMGM
    • Betr
    • Caesars Sportsbook
    • DraftKings
    • FanDuel
    • WynnBET

  • That leaves two other licensees, BallyBet and Fanatics, which won’t be ready to launch in Massachusetts until May. Meanwhile, the app Betway is still planning to request a license, but won’t launch for about a year. Pointsbet told state officials this week that it’s withdrawing its bid.

Psst: It may not feel like spring this weekend, but Sullivan’s in Castle Island is officially open for the season as of tomorrow. And there’s nothing like a $3 hot dog to warm you up in this cold, blustery weather.

P.S.— Do you know who stepped in as interim governor this week while Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll were out of state? Then take you Boston News Quiz and test your knowledge of this week’s stories.

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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