MBTA takes new pass at track worker safety plan

The MBTA will pilot new "worker ahead" warnings on some of its subway tracks, revise its radio communications about employees on the rails, amend training for dispatchers and more after drawing federal scrutiny for a series of dangerous incidents.

T officials on Monday submitted a revised work plan to the Federal Transit Administration, meeting the regulatory agency's deadline for another pass at laying out immediate reforms that will mitigate risks that employees face while on the rail right-of-way.

One of the main steps the T will take this summer is piloting a new signage program flagging when workers are ahead of trains in the Green Line's central tunnel. In a letter to the FTA alongside the plan, MBTA General Manager Phil Eng said officials selected that location because "a majority of the near miss incidents" that generated concerns "took place near Copley Station."

Several changes were already underway before the Monday deadline for the updated work plan, T officials said, including a new employee schedule that places more senior dispatch supervisors on overnight shifts — when most track construction and maintenance work takes place — and another pilot program providing "power maps" to help monitor locations of individual workers on Blue Line tracks.

The revised plan, which the FTA required after deeming the MBTA's original submission "insufficient" because it did not pursue changes quickly enough, also lays out about two dozen other reforms that the T estimates will be completed after the 60-day timeline. Those include analyses of peer transit agency practices for protecting workers on the subway right-of-way, revising the right-of-way access rulebook, and boosting training for dispatchers.

The FTA still needs to approve the updated submission.

"FTA has identified action items and timelines for needed safety improvements and expects MBTA to complete the required actions to prioritize the safety of passengers and transit workers," an FTA spokesperson said Monday.

The MBTA released copies of the work plan and Eng's accompanying letter Monday in direct response to media inquiries, after a spokesperson initially signaled it would only be available via a formal records request.



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