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Seth Moulton ‘aghast’ at MBTA’s ‘rudimentary’ 30 day plan to fix Orange Line

Three Bay State congressmen met with leaders from the MBTA Monday, when they were presented with the transit system’s plan — or lack thereof — to prevent future service disruptions like the shutdown of the Orange Line.

“I was aghast. I found it frighteningly disappointing and disillusioning,” U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton told the Herald. “They proudly walked through their 30-day maintenance plan and detailed the work they are doing, and because I have some background in railway operations I recognized everything they described is completely rudimentary.”

The Salem Democrat joined Boston’s Rep. Stephen Lynch and Newton’s Rep. Jake Auchincloss for a meeting with MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak and other MBTA officials on the unprecedented monthlong shutdown of the Orange Line and other “diversions” aimed at shoring up several speed restrictions caused by maintenance concerns.

Both Moulton and Auchincloss agreed to speak to the Herald after their meeting and neither congressman seemed pleased at what they heard.

“The very basic things they described, like replacing tracks and switches, are things railways have done for a century and a half in their sleep. I thought they were going to describe rebuilding the track structure from the ground up, replacing entire stations or bridges,” Moulton said. “They are not doing any of that, they are doing the most basic stuff.”

“This would be like shutting down all of I-93 to fill potholes and paint lane lines,” he said.

According to Auchincloss, the agency doesn’t need more cash, but desperately needs a long-term plan for hiring and maintenance.

“This is about manpower and maintenance, not about money. The federal government has provided unprecedented sums to the MBTA for maintenance and investment,” he said. “What we need to see going forward are five year plans for their workforce. They need to hire at least 2,000 people over the next two years.”

Auchincloss said he would not like to see the Federal Transit Administration begin receivership oversight of the system, but that “strong supervision” by the federal government might be necessary, considering the circumstances.

“The FTA has already demonstrated its value on enforcing the issue on safety upgrades. I think it should stay in close oversight of the MBTA,” he said. “(But) I’m a former local official and I strongly believe that state and local officials should be running the MBTA.”

Moulton said an FTA takeover isn’t going to help solve the real problem at the transit system, which he said is cultural.

“We need much more fundamental changes at the MBTA, from top to bottom, to change the culture of the organization, change their hiring practices, their personnel system, and the level of expertise among their managers,” he said. “The problem is, I don’t think the feds are going to fix this on their own either. They will say you need to follow this federal regulation. They won’t institute the culture change we need.”

Both congressmen agreed that the service needs to provide a better product in order to move forward.

“I love the MBTA, I love public transportation, I’ve been a ‘free the T guy’ for a long time now,” Auchincloss said. “But the MBTA is not meeting the mark for my constituents right now. It costs more to take the commuter rail, for example, from outside of 495 into Boston, than it would to drive. That’s ridiculous.”

“A good transit system is one that people want to ride, because it’s faster and more pleasant than driving,” Moulton said. “Not only is the T obviously not that, but when have you heard anyone at the T state that as a goal?”

Everett, MA – August 20: Work starts on the tracks at Wellington Station during the first day of the one month shut down of the MBTA Orange Line on August 20, 2022 in , Everett, MA. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

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