Boston Herald

MBTA on track over safety

- By Gayla Cawley gcawley@bostonhera­

The MBTA will focus on nine ways to improve track safety for employees over the next 60 days, according to a revised work plan the beleaguere­d agency submitted to federal officials on Monday.

The 10-page plan, shared with the Herald following a public records request, puts the emphasis on enhancing communicat­ion to alert dispatcher­s and train operators of when and where employees will be working on the right-of-way, and providing ways for dispatcher­s in the operators’ control center to track worker locations.

It outlines ways to tighten up training for all employees involved in work that requires right-of-way access, from those performing track constructi­on to personnel acting as flaggers who warn of oncoming trains, to those managing this activity in the operations control center, according to the plan.

“We share the goal of managing risk involving right-of-way activities, with a specific focus on reducing both the frequency and severity of incidents,” MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng wrote in a cover letter to the FTA that accompanie­d the plan’s submission. “

“The submittal is segregated into the areas that will be accomplish­ed in the next 60 days. It will also clarify measures that will require longer than 60 days to assess and implement.”

The submission follows six major right-of-way violations that occurred over a roughly one-month period, from March 14 to April 14, including five near-misses where employees were almost struck by trains and a serious injury on the Blue Line where a 2,000-pound “counterwei­ght” fell on top of an electrical lineman.

The T’s initial work plan, submitted in early May, was rejected by the Federal Transit Administra­tion on May 19 for being “insufficie­nt,” in that the agency aimed to start implementi­ng many actions that would address these violations by the end of this year, or into next year.

The FTA ordered the MBTA to submit a new plan by Monday, with actions that could be taken within 60 days. Officials from both entities met on Friday to discuss the revised response ahead of the deadline, a T spokespers­on said.

According to the T, a number of actions included in the new plan are already underway, including the retraining of all employees with right-of-way access, work crew limitation­s on tracks, and a Blue Line pilot of a new way to document and visualize the location of workers on the tracks.

This pilot, per Eng’s letter, provides “power maps” for operations control center dispatcher­s working on the Blue Line, to allow them to track the presence of workers on the right-ofway. It is set to conclude on June 30, and will inform how the program is applied on other subway lines.

“The Blue Line was chosen as the pilot station for this activity due to the nearmiss that occurred on the Blue Line when two railborne equipment were permitted access to the same segment of track,” Eng wrote, and because of its “size and complexity” relative to other MBTA subway lines.

Set to kick off this week on the Green Line is a “worker ahead flagging” pilot that alerts train operators to the presence of workers on the right-of-way.

Eng said the MBTA determined that a majority of the near-miss incidents took place near Copley station, which “informed our decision to pilot the worker ahead warning system on the Green Line in the central subway.”

 ?? MATT STONE/BOSTON HERALD ?? MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng talks with employees as he tours Cabot Yard and Maintenanc­e Facility recently.
MATT STONE/BOSTON HERALD MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng talks with employees as he tours Cabot Yard and Maintenanc­e Facility recently.

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