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MBTA Announces Ambitious Track Improvement Program to Eliminate All Speed Restrictions by End of 2024  

Posted on November 9, 2023

Updated December 12, 2023.

Program to fix tracks will deliver safe and reliable service for riders; MBTA to host public open houses across communities.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) today announced the launch of its Track Improvement Program, a major, bold initiative to eliminate all existing speed restrictions, as of November 2023, and bring tracks closer to a state of good repair by the end of next year. This means that the infrastructure is structurally sound, functional, and meets all applicable safety and performance standards. The program is part of the MBTA’s broader efforts to “Rebuild, Restore, and Reimagine” the public transit system. 
The MBTA’s new program to fix the tracks will involve a wide range of work, including spot repairs, tie replacements, rail replacement, and ballast replacement. The MBTA will also be expanding its engineering teams and engaging specialized rail contractors to execute the work efficiently. The MBTA will schedule Track Improvement Program work during nights, weekends, and shutdown periods to minimize service, time, and cost impacts.     

“By restoring our tracks, we are addressing the root causes of the speed restrictions that have accumulated over decades,” said MBTA General Manager and CEO Phillip Eng. “Our efforts to rebuild track infrastructure across the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green Lines will improve train speeds substantially, reduce delays and disruptions, enhance safety, and deliver timely, reliable, and consistent service for riders. Our team is deeply committed to seeing this through and we thank the public for their patience as we move the T forward. We will have a robust open house schedule to ensure the public has an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the various projects throughout the year.”  
Speed restrictions are limitations on the speed at which trains can travel to ensure the safety of riders and workers. Existing speed restrictions total 191 as of November 6. This year, the program aims to address 39 speed restrictions to further reduce travel times. Next year, by the end of 2024, the plan endeavors to revitalize over 27,900 railroad ties and 124,880 feet of track to improve safety and reliability. Over 208,000 feet of tamping (a process used to pack the track ballast under railway tracks to make the tracks and roadbed more durable and level) will help smooth riding surfaces and allow for more comfortable, efficient train operations for the public we serve.   
“From day one, Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll have been clear that a safe, reliable public transportation system is essential for a strong economy and strong communities. With this plan, General Manager Eng and the MBTA team are showing our clear commitment to tackling these challenges head on,” said Massachusetts Department of Transportation Acting Secretary and CEO Monica Tibbits-Nutt. “This is a bold and ambitious plan, but it is one that is necessary to ensure the long-term safety and reliability of the MBTA system. We are committed to working with the MBTA to make this a success.”   
Speed restrictions are used to maintain a safe and reliable transit system until remedied actions can be taken. However, they also result in additional travel time for riders. The MBTA is committed to eliminating speed restrictions more expeditiously, but it is important to note that some speed restrictions are put in place for safety reasons. The MBTA is constantly conducting inspections of its tracks to identify and address any potential areas of concern that may be identified.  
The tentative 2023 Construction Work Schedule is as follows:   

  • On the Green Line:
    • North Station to Kenmore/Heath Street, Babcock Street
      • November 27, 2023 - December 5, 2023
    • Riverside to Kenmore
      • December 11, 2023 - December 20, 2023

The tentative 2024 Construction Work Schedule is as follows:   

  • On the Red Line:
    • Alewife to Harvard
      • February 5 - February 13, 2024
    • Park Street to JFK/UMass
      • May 1, 2024 - May 8, 2024
    • Alewife to Kendall/MIT
      • July 8, 2024 - July 23, 2024
    • JFK/UMass to Braintree
      • September 3, 2024 - September 18, 2024
    • Kendall/MIT to Broadway
      • October 15, 2024 - October 20, 2024
    • Broadway to North Quincy
      • December 1, 2024 - December 6, 2024
    • Harvard to Park Street
      • December 14, 2024 - December 19, 2024
  • On the Orange Line:
    • Haymarket to Jackson Square
      • March 18, 2024 - March 21, 2024
    • Sullivan Square to Back Bay
      • May 28, 2024 - June 6, 2024
    • Wellington to North Station
      • June 20, 2024 - June 27, 2024
    • Oak Grove to North Station
      • August 17, 2024 - August 22, 2024
    • Back Bay to Forest Hills
      • September 25, 2024 - October 5, 2024
  • On the Green Line:
    • North Station to Lechmere
      • November 12, 2024 - November 25, 2024
    • North Station to Kenmore, Heath Street, Babcock Street  
      • January 3, 2024 - January 12, 2024
      • January 16, 2024 - January 26, 2024
    • Copley to St. Mary's, Babcock Street, Brookline Hills
      • February 20, 2024 - March 8, 2024
    • Boston College to Kenmore
      • July 31, 2024 - August 9, 2024
    • Cleveland Circle to St. Mary's
      • October 28, 2024 - November 2, 2024
  • On the Blue Line:
    • Airport to Wonderland
      • April 9, 2024 - April 12, 2024
      • April 16, 2024 - April 23, 2024
    • Bowdoin to Airport 
      • After Revenue Service Construction Work (Night Orders)

The MBTA will host “open houses,” held in-person and virtually, to provide an overview of projects and allow riders, residents, and communities an opportunity to ask questions or share comments and feedback. Meeting dates and locations will be posted at and shared on social media and with the press. Tentative, initial meeting “save the dates” are tentatively scheduled for:   

  • January 8, 2024  
  • February 2, 2024  
  • February 20, 2024  
  • March 2, 2024  
  • March 7, 2024  

The MBTA will also provide regular updates to customers on the progress of the work and any potential service disruptions through various channels, including, but not limited to, in-station signage, social media, T-Alerts, and the MBTA website. Any project and open house schedule changes will be communicated to the public.   

The MBTA is in the process of finalizing alternate service options for riders, which may include accessible shuttle bus service, providing amplified service on alternate modes, and utilizing existing services like Commuter Rail options. The MBTA will share finalized details regarding these alternate modes of service once these plans have been finalized and confirmed. Riders will be able to find more information on service changes through in-station signage, in-station public announcements, and at Transit Ambassadors and MBTA staff will be available on-site to offer information and assistance during these service changes. Riders are also encouraged to subscribe to T-Alerts or to follow the MBTA on X (the site formerly known as Twitter) @MBTA for up-to-date service information. 
The Track Improvement Program is only one part of the MBTA’s overall efforts to “Rebuild, Restore, and Reimagine” the public transit system. The MBTA has been focused on recruitment, retention, skills training, and leadership development to cultivate the workforce needed to operate and maintain a modern transportation system. The MBTA has invested in restructuring the senior leadership team, improving safety protocols, engineering, planning, frontline teams, workforce development, and training to ensure employees are ultimately fulfilling their responsibilities in the most effective way possible.  
To date, the MBTA has exceeded hiring nearly 1,200 employees in just 2023 alone, surpassing a goal set by the Healey-Driscoll Administration, whose investment of $20 million in the supplemental budget supported the Local 589 Agreement, which was critical to the MBTA’s hiring efforts. 

Statements of Support 

Executive Director of TransitMatters Jarred Johnson
“TransitMatters applauds the MBTA and General Manager Eng on the release of a long-term diversion schedule for 2024. For too long, diversions at the T have been announced on an ad-hoc basis with little notice. We’re happy to see the T aggressively resolving speed restrictions and giving riders more time to plan. We look forward to seeing a robust alternative service plan that gets better with each diversion.” 
Executive Director of Transportation for Massachusetts Reggie Ramos:

“The communication of a comprehensive, system-wide, year-long plan to address track issues is crucial and appreciated. We hope this signals for the MBTA a new level of transparency with the public especially as the work progresses. This allows impacted communities to plan their trips and activities ahead, and for municipalities to prepare for these shutdowns. We will continue to hold the MBTA to their obligation to accessible mitigation measures, their service delivery policy, and to safety.” 
Executive Director of LivableStreets Alliance Stacy Thompson
“This is the kind of practical, reasonable, and effective track repair plan the riding public has been calling for. The MBTA has demonstrated that it can quite literally get things back on track and Red Line riders are already benefiting from their new and improved track repair strategy. We look forward to working with the T and impacted municipalities to successfully complete this work in 2024.”  

A Better City President & CEO Kate Dineen:
“Today’s announcement is a critical step toward delivering the safe, reliable, and equitable transportation system riders and our region deserve. Under General Manager Eng’s leadership, the MBTA is taking decisive action to get the system back on track after decades of underinvestment. The successful implementation of this program has the potential to restore rider trust, bolster our region’s economic competitiveness, and promote more climate-friendly commuting options. We thank the MBTA and will continue to work with leadership to minimize impacts to riders and to maximize communications and transparency during this period of crucial rebuilding.” 

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