MBTA to Replace Signals, Lay New Track Along Newton’s Green Line

America’s first subway is getting some improvements. More specifically, 25,000 feet of track and 6.5 miles of signal infrastructure on the MBTA Green Line D branch are being replaced in a $102 million project.

The project runs through the heart of Newton and will impact the town’s busiest stations over the course of the 30-month contract. The construction is set to begin this October, with an expected end date of December 2020.

Beth Larkin, MBTA assistant general manager for capital delivery, gave a presentation on Thursday at Newton Free Library to inform the public and address concerns regarding the disruptive nature of the project.

“We recognize the importance of both balancing the needs for our state of good repairs improvements to keep our trains running and the service provided at the level which can but reliable,” Larkin said. “But we also want to understand and be respectful of the fact that this is going through a fairly densely populated community.”

She emphasized that construction is necessarily disruptive, but the MBTA is striving to minimize any inconvenience and annoyance the project may cause for those living near the tracks or who utilize the D branch.

“Our goal is to make it tolerable,” Larkin said.

Track replacement will occur in six segments between the Beaconsfield and Riverside stations. Five sections are located in Newton, with the remainder in Brookline. Signals will be replaced for the entire length spanning Reservoir to Riverside.

According to Larkin, the primary goal of these improvements is to modernize infrastructure and centralize the signal system equipment for easier access. Some of the components being replaced have been serving the MBTA since World War I. The project will also provide a redundant power supply system, upgrade crossovers and track switches, and rebuild pedestrian crosswalks and truck pads.

The combined effect of these improvements will result in increased reliability for Green Line riders. Modern signals will result in fewer delays, and the new track will increase rider safety. Additionally, all speed restrictions caused by poor track condition will no longer apply to the D branch. Larkin clarified that this does not mean the trains will run faster, just that they will not be made to run slower than normal due to track disrepair.

The bulk of construction will occur at night for the duration of the project. On a typical night, work will begin at 9 p.m. and end at 4:30 a.m. in one of the six zones. From 9 p.m. until 12:30 a.m., bus service will replace train service for these hours in which the T would typically serve customers.

On weeknights, 14 buses will be provided, while on weekend nights 24 buses will be available wherever service is disrupted. Larkin specified 8-minute headways for these buses, and estimated bus service will add about 15 minutes to the average commute.

Fifteen weekends have also been allotted to complete special trackwork, such as where crossovers occur. These weekends will not be specified until later, but contractors must give a 30-day notice before they plan to use one of the weekends. Again, buses will be provided to compensate for disrupted train service.

Noise is one of the major public concerns regarding the project, especially for those who live near the tracks. According to Larkin, the loudest aspect of construction will be cutting the rails. This will occur within the first two hours on any given work night.

Another major issue raised at the meeting was where contractors will be accessing the MBTA right of way. On the west end of the project, Riverside will serve as the primary access point. In zone 2 from Newton Highlands to Reservoir, the primary access point will be Reservoir. Contractors have also indicated they may need access at the Chestnut Hill station at some points.  

Featured Image by Chloe McAllaster / Heights Editor