BOSTON (AP) — Boston has the nation’s first subway system, and this week it was beginning to show its age.
Gov. Charlie Baker blamed ongoing delays on MBTA commuter rail and subway lines on a mix of bad weather, aging subway lines and lawsuits delaying the construction of new trains.
Problems plagued the entire public transportation system during Monday’s heavy snowstorm. Delays continued into Tuesday, with MBTA officials at one point advising passengers to consider alternatives to the Red Line.
On Monday, a six-car Red Line train carrying about 50 passengers was stranded for about two hours on the tracks near the Braintree station. Later Monday, there was another disabled Red Line train stuck on the Longfellow Bridge that spans the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston. “I think what happened yesterday, especially for the people who got trapped on the Red Line, was terrible,” Baker said. “This is not just a harsh winter, it’s the largest and most significant snowstorm ever over the course of the past 10 days in greater Boston combined with a significant amount of arctic-like temperatures.”
MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott said it could take four to five days to get service completely restored to the 117-year-old system.She also said the MBTA would do its best to provide service during Wednesday’s Super Bowl parade for the New England Patriots, but she urged fans to check the T’s website for possible trouble.
“We are focused on getting service back up and getting service restored,” Scott said Tuesday. “We’re focused on how we can, not why we can’t.”
Baker released a list of cuts he said were needed to help plug a $768 million budget gap, among them a proposed $40 million transportation cut. Scott said of that $40 million, $12 million would come from the MBTA, but she said the cut wouldn’t cause an erosion of service.
Part of a solution is a new fleet of Red and Orange line trains. A Chinese company was awarded the contract to build the trains, but companies that lost the bid have challenged the decision in court. “Let’s hope that litigation ends quickly,” Baker said. Scott said the first trains could begin running in about three years. with all the new subways cars in use in about seven years.
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said lawmakers have tried to give the MBTA the resources it needs to operate and to hold transit managers accountable. “The transportation agenda is far bigger than the public’s appetite to fund it,” Rosenberg added.
Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, said he was deeply concerned about the MBTA’s problems. “The T is facing some significant challenges but if we expect to ask people to rely on it, we better make it reliable,” said Tarr, the Senate Republican leader.
Baker said he is planning to meet with Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack to look for ways to avoid a repeat of the troubles this week.
Scott said that while Boston has the oldest subway system in the country — it opened in September 1897 — the recent snow and plunging mercury would have tested even the newest transit systems. And while Scott says she is hoping for “a little break from Mother Nature,” that may be wishful thinking.
More snow could hit the region as early as Thursday.