MBTA said it is considering a 30-day shutdown of the Orange Line for maintenance

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. General Manager Steve Poftak is set to make an announcement about “accelerated MBTA infrastructure improvements” Wednesday at the Wellington station along with Gov. Charlie Baker and Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler, according to the governor’s public schedule.

The MBTA board of directors has scheduled a last-minute meeting for Wednesday morning to review a contract with A Yankee line, one company that often provides shuttle buses for the MBTA when it closes parts of its subway lines.

Former Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi said that if the T shuts down the entire Orange Line for 30 days, it would probably be the first time.

“There may be a little precedent, but nothing on this scale,” Aloisi said. “This is a drastic step.”

The 20 stations on the Orange Line serve as an essential transportation option for entire communities. The average number of weekday trips as of October 2021 was 104,000, according to an MBTA filing from earlier this year. By comparison, average weekday trips on the Blue Line were 41,000, the Green Line 94,000, and the Red Line 125,000.

The plan to close the Orange Line comes after a year of security incidents on the MBTA.

Since a Green Line collision in July 2021, the T has been plagued with problems: An escalator malfunctioned at the Back Bay station, leading to a bloody crash and injuring nine people, a commuter train killed one woman in her car after a crossing signal in Wilmington malfunctioned, two other Green Line trains collided and derailed injuring four people, and a Red Line train dragged to her death at Broadway station after getting his arm caught in a subway door.

The death sparked intense scrutiny from federal traffic safety regulators who began a nearly unprecedented inspection of the subway system in mid-April. The Federal Transit Administration is expected to release its final report on the T this month.

In June, the FTA said it found the MBTA did not have enough dispatchers to operate its subway safely, so the agency cut service on the Orange, Blue and Red Lines by more than 20 percent. Federal inspectors also said the T needed to fix and improve large swathes of subway tracks.

The FTA found that about 10 percent of MBTA subway tracks are subject to speed restrictions due to defects, including a years-long slow zone on Orange Line tracks between Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay stations. Track maintenance crews use a 2- to 2½-hour window to complete repairs overnight, which isn’t enough time, the FTA said.

The MBTA has already made progress on repairing a stretch of faulty Orange Line track that has caused the slow zone for years, the agency told board members last month.

It’s not just the tracks that are a problem. Old Orange Line cars, put into service from 1979 to 1981, never had a mid-life overhaul. Last month, one of them caught fire when a side panel fell off and touched the electrified third rail, causing passengers to frantically flee.

In 2014, the MBTA selected a Chinese company that far outperformed its competitors to build an assembly plant in Springfield and deliver hundreds of new Orange and Red Line cars.

As of last month, the T had received 78 of 152 new Orange Line cars and just 12 of 252 new Red Line cars, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said July 22. The T expects all new Orange Line cars to be delivered by the summer of 2023 and all new Red Line cars by the summer of 2025, Pesaturo said.

The company, CRRC MA, has said the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues are causing the delays.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu called for a more aggressive approach to fixing the T’s aging infrastructure during a radio interview last week.

“It’s time to talk about taking off the Band-Aid and taking drastic measures,” he added during a July 25 interview on WBUR’s “Radio Boston.” She suggested closing sections of the Orange Line and said Boston would be prepared to dedicate street space to shuttle buses.

Wu reiterated that commitment on Tuesday.

“We got to the point with the T that we can’t kick the can anymore,” he told reporters at an unrelated event. “We would work very closely with the agency to make sure that Boston is prepared to help support any additional alternatives and to make sure that the work actually takes place during this period to have a real impact so that we can see that improvement in the service”.


Taylor Dolven can be reached at taylor.dolven@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.

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