Mayor Wu: The first days of the MBTA Orange Line shutdown are going to be ‘a little bit iffy’

As Greater Boston commuters prepare for “severe” travel impacts from the impending 30-day shutdown of the MBTA’s Orange Line, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is warning all travelers that the first days could be rough on all of them.

“The first couple days are going to be a little bit iffy as everyone is sorting out the new routines and understanding all the new options,” said Mayor Wu on Tuesday. “So we really encourage everyone to try to take a little time, ahead of time, and just map out, so you know what the alternatives are.”

Wu’s words echo the alarm raised during a briefing by Governor Charlie Baker and state transportation leaders on Monday.

“To be clear, these shutdowns will have substantial regional travel impacts beyond the just transit users,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “Traffic congestion is expected to be severe.”

Mayor Wu is calling on the MBTA to speed up its messaging about the impending shutdown, which starts Friday night at 9:00 p.m. and runs through September 18th.

“We need to get the signage up very quickly,” said Wu. “I worry for those riders who maybe don’t know this is coming yet and then all of a sudden on day one will be surprised.”

Governor Baker addresses the rollout of the shutdown messaging soon after Wu spoke.

“The signage work is continuing,” said Baker. “They’ll be continuing to roll that out, also in multiple languages, over the course of the next few days.”

Governor Charlie Baker speaks with reporters about the MBTA Orange Line shutdown

“All of this has happened on a very quick timeline so many things have been going at the same time. Planning the bus routes, figuring out outreach, translating all the materials,“ said Wu. ”I know the T is working as much as they can to get that out and up and posted at stations.”

The mayor is encouraging Orange Line users to use the commuter rail, which will be free in the city to riders with Charlie Cards.

The mayor also indicated she planned to get a first-hand look at how the shutdown is affecting normal MBTA travel.

“I will plan to, probably the first day of the shutdown, just try it out and mask sure it’s going smoothly,” said Wu.

Wu was joined by City Councilor Ed Flynn, who said he and the mayor are concerned with how the city’s Chinatown neighborhood is being treated since the MBTA is not planning to have the Orange Line shuttle buses stop in Chinatown.

”We need to have a bus in Chinatown so residents can get to a lot of their doctors’ appointments, and the Green Line,” said Flynn. “This is a large immigrant community. Many of the seniors speak Cantonese.”

City Councilor Ed Flynn

Flynn said it’s unfair to exclude a community of color like Chinatown and he said it would be important for the MBTA to make a change in their current plans. “The T needs to do a better job” with this,” said Flynn.

The shutdown will be in its early days as students in grades 1-12 return to school in Boston on September 8th.

“We are working very closely with Boston Public Schools and the MBTA and the City of Boston to ensure that we have plans in place for the start of school,” said Mayor Wu.

“It is absolutely critical that our students have a dependable, reliable way to get to school every single day but especially in the beginning of the year,” said Wu.

“We know this historically has been a source of great stress and we’ve been planning much further in advance for all the bus routes to be assigned,” said Wu. “The MBTA Orange Line situation has thrown a little extra curveball into planning but we are working on additional options.”

Governor Baker was also asked about the possibility of an express shuttle bus route from the north of Boston, like Malden and Medford, while the Orange Line is offline. Baker said he did not think it was needed.

“It’s going to run more or less along the same route that the Orange Line runs on, and the Orange Line doesn’t run express,” said Baker. “People stop along the way, and I think what we’re interested in is people picking whichever route makes the most sense for them but I don’t think we believe it makes sense to run buses that are not going to be available to some people because they’re running across and away from other stops.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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