Transit Projects and Accessibility

Government Center Station

MBTA Contract No. A20PS02

The construction contract is managed by the MBTA Design & Construction Department. The contractor is Barletta Heavy Division (BHD). The design was performed by HDR Engineering, Inc.


Government Center Station reopened on March 21, 2016. The station was reconstructed into a fully accessible, safer, modern, more comfortable facility. The current schedule is summarized as follows:

• Construction Contract Award (NTP): July 2013
• Station prepared for closure (electrical, structural, civil): Fall 2013 through First Quarter 2013
• Roadways and sidewalks reconfigured for closure: November 2013 to Second Quarter 2014
• Station closed for reconstruction: March 2014
Station re-opened: March 21, 2016

The next major phase of the project over the next six months is the reconstruction of Cambridge/Court/Tremont Streets. This work includes new roadway drainage, relocation of hydrants, installation of street lighting, and traffic signalization. This is followed by full-depth reconstruction of these streets. Remaining punch list work in the station has been and will be ongoing.

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Project Description

The Government Center Station Improvements Project (the Project) will combine improvements to the Green Line Station, Blue Line Station, and Cambridge Street/Government Center Plaza, which will enhance Government Center Station, making it fully accessible to all MBTA passengers and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) Settlement Agreement. Up to now, access to and from Government Center Station has been provided solely by a single set of stairways and two escalators.

Bounded by Cambridge, New Sudbury, and Court Streets, the Project is highly visible and vital to the area due to proximity to city, state, and federal government offices, Faneuil Hall, and other historically significant sites, businesses, retail establishments and residential areas. 

This Project includes the modernization of a station varying in age from fifty- to 116-years-old to become fully accessible. The Project also makes modifications to achieve improvements for a customer-friendly and efficient station that appropriately serves and conveys the image as a gateway to City Hall Plaza. The Project includes modifications to the plaza area adjacent to the new entrances/exits in order to create an accessible route to Boston City Hall and to the surrounding public sidewalks. The reconfiguration of the plaza surrounding the headhouse is consistent with the City’s initiative of greening City Hall Plaza.

Improvements will include renovations to both the Green Line and Blue Line platforms, the introduction of new redundant elevators from the surface to the Green Line level, and from the Green Line level to the Blue Line level, a new headhouse structure as the primary entrance to the Station, a new emergency exit structure on Cambridge Street, improved circulation between the Green Line and Blue Line platforms, and reconstruction of Cambridge Street and City Hall plaza in the vicinity of the station. The Project will also upgrade the station to comply with current applicable code requirements.

Headhouse Design

The design was developed collaboratively with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) with the intent to transform Government Center Station into a fully accessible station with headhouse architecture and engineering that complements the concept of a light, contemporary, and visually transparent glass element. The design intends for Government Center Station to serve as a welcoming beacon, becoming an integral part of the plaza and surrounding buildings that welcome people to the Government Center area. The design of the headhouse was driven by numerous, interrelated factors mainly by the existing station structure located underground. With a goal of providing natural light to the station below, the location of the existing columns and beams dictated both the length and width of the glass element containing the stairs and escalators. The MBTA worked with the BRA to establish an overall height that balances many issues, including the civic scale of Government Center Plaza, the Sears Crescent and Sears Block, the view corridor to the Old North Church, and the visual proportion of the headhouse. 

Once completed, entering the station will no longer be limited to the single, plaza-side set of doors. The new headhouse will include six doors around three sides that will reorient the station towards the street while continuing to serve the Plaza and City Hall. Coupled with double the number of fare gates and a new, second stairway, the new headhouse will double the capacity for people entering and exiting. An emergency only exit stair will be constructed on Cambridge Street to bring the station into compliance with modern building code requirements for emergency exits.

Surface Restoration

The Project includes improvements to City Hall Plaza that will create a more sustainable, greener, and pedestrian-friendly Plaza in the vicinity of the Station. The project provides accessible, stair-free paths between the station, public sidewalks, and City Hall.

The surface restoration plan will mitigate the windswept plaza with the introduction of fifty-four new trees, providing summer shade for outdoor gatherings and reducing the heat island effect. The reduction of impervious surfaces at the tree-planting areas on the Plaza will capture and treat storm water on site while reducing storm water runoff leaving the site and entering the harbor. Rainfall captured on the headhouse roof will be diverted to the trees as well.

To complete the accessible walkways to and from the head house, the Project is removing the traffic island at the intersection of Court Street, Cambridge Street, and Tremont Street and replacing it with a T-style intersection. This roadway realignment will provide accessible sidewalks and crosswalks within the limits of restoration. As a result, the sidewalks will be widened and the crosswalks shortened.

Station Work

Despite all of the changes that will take place on the surface, most of the work will really be taking place downstairs in the Green Line and Blue Line stations. One of the challenges faced by engineers is the fact that the two stations do not align in a way that permits direct elevator access from the Blue Line to the surface. The Blue Line platform is actually located below Cambridge Street, requiring the Project to construct two sets of elevators: one set from Blue to Green and the second set from Green to the surface.

In addition, the entire Green Line platform must be raised eight inches to provide accessible boarding on the low-floor Green Line cars. This requirement means that everything that touches the platform, including all of the stairs, escalators, and walls, must be either modified or replaced.

On the Blue Line level of the Station, the elevators can be located in only one place that aligns with the Green Line station above. That location happens to be at the bottom of the main stairs between the two levels, therefore requiring complete demolition and reconstruction of the stairs. The Blue Line platform will also be resurfaced.

The project will also replace the electrical substation to be able to run the elevators and other new equipment, as well as provide upgrades to lighting, communications, and safety systems. New way finding signage will also be installed throughout the station.

Design and Construction Details

Value Engineering (VE), managed by the Owner′s Representative as required by MGL 30/39M.5, was performed in January 2011. The major recommendation of the study was to close Government Center Station to patrons (but allow trains to pass through) for twenty-four months during the construction period by diverting passengers to other nearby stations. Closure/bypass of the station to patrons for twenty-four months during construction eliminates the need for a temporary head house and allows construction to proceed more rapidly, thereby resulting in the overall delivery of accessibility to be achieved earlier. The closure also results in minimization of system delays, improved worker and public safety, and improved construction quality. The recommendation was presented to the MBTA Board of Directors in April 2011. The Board concurred with that recommendation, and design progressed based on the Station being closed as recommended.

The design and the construction staging of the project has been closely coordinated with City of Boston departments, Mass Historic, federal agencies, project abutters, area business groups, and all major departments within the MBTA. Public presentations of the project have taken place at six area locations. (See meeting notifications on the MBTA Public Meetings page.) 


Government Center Proposed Head House EntryGovernment Center Proposed Head House


Renderings of the proposed head house as well as the plan and cross sections of the proposed Plaza level head house leading down to the Green Line Station are depicted in Figures 1 and 2 below.

Figure 1 - Renderings of Proposed Head House at Plaza Entry Level and Proposed Stairs from Plaza Entry Level to Green Line Level


 Government Center Proposed Entrance Head House Plan


Figure 2 - Plan of Proposed Head House/Station Cross Section

 Government Center Proposed Head House Station Cross Section

Project Images

Government Center Proposed Site Plan


Government Center Proposed Entrance City Hall Plaza


Government Center Proposed Interior Entry Lobby


Government Center Interior Paid Lobby


Government Center Proposed Head House Interior


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