Repairs to tracks on the Green Line Extension could begin in a week, said MBTA General Manager Philip Eng -- and be finished in two weeks. That is the timeline proposed by GLX Constructors, the conglomerate that designed and built the Extension. Under the proposal, which the MBTA is reviewing, work each day would begin at 9 PM and end at 5 AM.
Recently, Eng was made aware of a problem others had known about for more than two years: much of the track on the Extension does not meet specifications for width, or gauge.
At issue are the railroad ties, which come prefabricated with rail attachments or plates. Construction specifications called for these plates to be 56 and a half inches apart, give or take 1/16 of an inch.
“What we are seeing is a significant portion of the rail existed between 56 and 1/8 and 56 and 3/8,” Eng told the MBTAS’s Board of Directors at their Tuesday meeting. The GM said this was not a safety issue -- although speed on the Extension had been reduced to a crawl over the defective tracks.
“The fact that we had tight gauge for such extensive lengths of the track, leads me to believe it’s tied to the fabrication and production,” Eng said.
The fix is simple, but the repairs are extensive.
“The bolts come out, we plug the holes, measure, redrill and re-secure the tie plates and rail,” Eng said.” Projects always have issues that arise. It’s a matter of tackling them when you identify them and tackling them in a timely manner, so we don’t end up having to do this after service is running and after the public is already enjoying that service.”
Transportation activists are putting their faith in Eng.
“I think the general manager is trying to do the right thing,” said Evan Foss of the T Riders Union. “I think the longstanding issue of institutional dishonesty, which we refer to kindly as ‘safety culture problems,’ has yet to be cleaned up.”
Foss also blames the MBTA’s chronic fiscal problems for its infrastructure issues.
“They have a long-standing budget deficit and this is what you get for it,” he said. “It takes prolonged periods to fix things.”
“Service has been deteriorating over the last few years,” said Caitlin Allen-Connelly, senior transportation advisor at A Better City and a T rider for more than 50 years. Still, she believes Eng can right the ship.
“I think there are adults in the building and I think there’s a trend towards being transparent and open and confronting issues as they come about -- and communicating it to the public -- which is really important,” she said.
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