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Troubles with temps and trains, and more waiting for the MBTA

Posted by Nichole Davis  January 4, 2013 01:24 PM

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Back again, but not completely out of holiday mode... hope you had a relaxing and exciting time with your family and friends.

Today, we'll reflect on the tough times rail riders have had over the past couple of days due to the frigid temperatures. There's also an update on that fiscal report the Governor's supposed to give the state's transportation agencies... we'll also discuss when Orange Line riders will still have to deal with Assembly Square construction.

Next week we'll discuss a proposal that's been floating around on the South Shore for a little while. Commuters who use Route 3 to and from Boston know the hassle of sitting in traffic from Hingham to Braintree every day. A former state transportation official says that tolls might be the trick to cut back on the traffic -- but there's some strong voices against the idea. Also, I'll have information on a way for Fall River residents to chime in with their thoughts about another wave of construction on the Braga Bridge.

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It's winter in Boston, which means it's cold. And, when it's cold, that means there will, inevitably, be problems on the rails. Anyone remember the four hour Worcester ride back in 2011 that raised the ire of many?

The past couple of days have been difficult ones for the MBCR and the MBTA. As the mercury dropped into the single digits, the rails contracted, and there were plenty of problems. Officials from both agencies reported significant delays -- almost thirty percent of commuter rail trains were dealing with backlogged service due to the effects of the cold. Issues with a broken rail at Central on the Red Line sent riders shuttling on buses between Harvard and Kendall for over two hours.

MBCR Spokesman Scott Farmelant told the Globe that there were a variety of issues that kept things at a standstill on the commuter rail. You name it: signal issues on tracks maintained by Pan Am Railways, two disabled Amtrak trains on southern lines, and other mechanical issues held trains up for close to 40 minutes at a time. But, Farmelant says, the majority of those problems were things that the MBCR couldn't do much about, as they're all under the jurisdiction of those other companies.

Apparently today went a little better, though, at least on the subway -- MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo says that out of the whole subway system, just one Green Line train acted up this morning. Not as much on the commuter rail. According to Farmelant, 92 percent of trains north of town and 95 percent of trains south of town made it to their destinations on time. However, the majority of the issues keeping those other trains held up continued to be out of the MBCR's hands, so he told Lauren Dezenski of boston.com:

This morning, five trains on the Providence, Worcester, and Fairmount lines were delayed due to a problem with an Amtrak train, he said. On the Fitchburg line, four inbound trans were delayed as much as 12 minutes by a failure of a signal on a track owned and operated by Pan Am Railways. Lowell line riders on three trains were also delayed due to signal problems on another portion of the Pan Am Railways line, he said.

I'm of the belief that there are, sometimes, things you just can't do about the weather. Living in a northern city, and it being wintertime, we're going to see some very, very cold days from time to time. We deal with the same stuff when it comes to overly warm days in the summertime. But where does the tolerance end and the questions begin?

This quote caught my eye in today's article in the Globe by Maxine Powers:

Wintry weather poses a challenge for other transit systems, including the Chicago Transit Authority, where cold weather occasionally causes problems with electrical switches or rail car doors, spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski said. But because the Chicago Transit Authority staff conducts inspections before bouts of cold weather, they usually experience few problems in single-digit temperatures. “We have limited issues ­because we take preventative measures,” Hosinski said.

So, I guess the first question to ask here is: well, what are the preventative measures we take here in Boston? Do we have inspections, and, if so, how often? Why, after years and years, do we not have a better idea as to what to expect when we know, days out, that it's going to be a Really Freaking Cold Day™ out? I've emailed some officials to see what their thoughts are on this, and I'll update you when I hear back. But, now, I want to hear from you.

Are you a regular rider of the commuter rail or subway? Have you found yourself consistently stuck in delays as the temperature drops? Is heat an issue on your trains this year? I'll post your thoughts in an upcoming entry.
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As discussed in last week's post, transportation officials across the state have been eagerly waiting on Governor Patrick and his administration to deliver a detailed finance report.

It's supposed to outline exactly how much is needed to get the state's transportation agencies back to good - which won't be a small amount, considering the numbers are looking into the billions of dollars. The report's also expected to put forth some basic ideas on how to improve the dire fiscal situation that's been plaguing said agencies for well over a decade at this point. It'll also discuss the solvency of investing in expansions, such as the plan to stretch the commuter rail to the South Coast.

The governor's office says that long-awaited report will now come down on January 14th. Technically, by doing so, they're violating a deadline that was created last year when the legislature allowed the T to receive an emergency rush of funds. There's been no explanation for the delay. The governor did mention yesterday, however, that he'll be laying out more ideas on how to improve the transportation infrastructure in the upcoming State of the State address, so that's something to look forward to.
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MBTA Matters

Thankfully, Orange Line riders have been given a bit of a reprieve from all that pesky busing they've had to contend with for the past few months. I'm here to provide some not-so-great-news: you're stuck with it again. The good news? So far, it looks to be contained to weekends, at least for the coming month or so.

The T says bus service will run between Sullivan Square and Oak Grove from the start of service Saturday to the end of service Sunday each weekend for the next three weeks - so, that's the 5th and 6th, 12th and 13th, and 19th and 20th of January. Buses will make all stops, and normal service will continue starting on Monday morning.
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You'll find slowdowns here...

24 northbound between Route 139, Stoughton (Exit 20) and 128, Randolph: expect lane closures and a rough road surface due to ongoing paving work in place until mid-January 2013.

128 in both directions between Route 135, Dedham (Exit 17) and Highland Avenue, Needham (Exit 19): continuous lane closures are in effect until further notice as part of the 128 widening project. Expect extra slowdowns, especially during mid-days, for work.

Route 9 eastbound at the Hammond Pond Parkway, Newton: expect heavy delays due to ongoing paving work Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

North Harvard Street over the Larz Anderson Bridge: Continual lane closures are in effect in both directions for bridge reconstruction work. No left turn onto Memorial Drive from JFK Street.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Nichole Davis is a Boston-based traffic reporter and news anchor. She’s been seen and heard on television and radio airwaves across New England since 2003, providing commuters with all the More »

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