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Vegetation Management

Worked removes overgrown vegetation near the right of way.

Federal and state laws require transit systems to control vegetation that could interfere with rail safety.

The right of way (ROW) is a transportation corridor—vegetation on or near the ROW may be unsafe for riders and employees, can damage equipment, and could cause service delays.

Overgrown vegetation can obstruct the required line-of-sight along crossings and critical signal areas. In addition, natural hazards such as high winds, ice storms, and other inclement weather conditions increase the risk for vegetation and trees to break, fall, and create obstacles along transportation corridors.

To avoid these issues, the ROW requires both routine and emergency vegetation management.

Management Methods

The Vegetation Management Plan combines mechanical and chemical methods to manage, control, and remove vegetation along the ROW.

Regulatory and Stakeholder Outreach

Overgrown vegetation near the ROW can block visibility.

Vegetative management along the ROW, required at the state and federal level, is regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources (DAR).

These regulations detail a process by which the railroad must obtain DAR approval for their means and methods to control vegetation within the ROW. 

This includes preparation of:

Requests for Determination of Applicability (RDAs)

As part of the VMP process, Requests for Determination of Applicability (RDAs) are filed with each Conservation Commission.

RDAs provide maps to the Conservation Commissions and to the public. These maps show the ROW and any wetlands, waterways, drinking water wells, agricultural areas, etc.  Those areas are defined as “no spray zones” in which herbicide application is prohibited. 

The public is able to comment on these areas prior to certification by Conservation Commission. Keolis and the MBTA have previously agreed to expand the no spray zone to include areas such as playgrounds and parks at the request of communities.

Best Management Practices

During the VMP process, the MBTA and its contractors use Best Management Practices to reduce the impact on the environment and adjacent communities. These include:

  • Accessing the work area via the right of way
  • Properly disposing of cutting debris 
  • Leaving tree stumps in place to prevent erosion
  • Monitoring weather and wind conditions to avoid herbicides drifting and spreading

Documentation 

Learn more about the MBTA’s vegetation management strategy, view maps of our service areas, and get details about the herbicides we use in the documents below. 

View the MBTA 2019-2023 Vegetation Management Plan

The MBTA’s VMP is also available on Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Rights of Way Vegetation Management.

View documents by year:

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As part of our $8 billion, 5-year capital investment plan, we're renovating stations, modernizing fare collection systems, upgrading services for our buses, subways, and ferries, and improving the accessibility of the entire system.

Learn more