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Here are the 4 safety issues the feds say the MBTA needs to fix ASAP

The Federal Transit Administration has almost finished its safety inspection of the MBTA.

MBTA workers walk the tracks clearing debris after new and old rails were worked on inside the tunnels in May. The FTA is calling for the MBTA to make four changes to addeess safety issues. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff )

After weeks of inspecting the MBTA’s transit system, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) officials identified four major safety issues they want the MBTA to fix as quickly as possible, State House News Service (SHNS) reported Monday.

These issues are:

  • Inadequate staffing at the operations control center
  • A lack of safety protections in train yards
  • Delayed track maintenance
  • Late recertification of MBTA workers
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In a meeting Monday, SHNS reported that MBTA Chief Safety Officer Ronald Ester said he expects the FTA to finish its investigation before a final meeting with T officials on Friday.

But, SHNS reported, Ester also said the FTA told T officials that there are four issues they want the MBTA to work on before it releases a formal report.

Ester explained the four issues during a meeting.

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“The staffing at the operations control center — that’s basically making sure they have adequate staff to perform the work at the operations control center,” Ester said.

SHNS reported that timely maintenance has been an issue for the MBTA for a long time.

“As it relates to delayed track maintenance, it’s ensuring that maintenance is done and we have a state of good repair,” Ester said.

The most recent comprehensive estimate of the money it would take to repair and update the T was released in May 2019. At that time, officials determined it would cost $10.1 billion to replace all the outdated equipment and infrastructure across the T with up-to-date fixtures.

“The recertifications of individuals that require recertifications to perform their work on a daily basis [is] making sure they haven’t lapsed in those recertification processes,” Ester said.

Ester said MBTA officials are working on a response plan to address these issues, and that they will send it to the FTA soon.

The FTA has only inspected a transit system’s safety this comprehensively once before in Washington D.C., SHNS reported. This resulted in the FTA taking over the subway system for over three years.

The FTA’s inspection of the MBTA began in mid-April, after a man was dragged to his death after getting his arm stuck in the door of a Red Line car. FTA officials said they were “extremely concerned with the ongoing safety issues” on the T.

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Since then, many other dangerous incidents have occurred on the T, including a man dying after coming into contact with the third rail at Park Street Station, car crashes, and derailments.

In 2019, the MBTA’s former oversight panel created an independent group of experts to evaluate safety on the T after repeated derailments. The group wrote in a report that the MBTA was not prioritizing safety, and wrote a list of 61 recommendations.

In February, MBTA officials reported that two-thirds of the recommendations from the audit had been completed and that the other recommendations were in progress or on hold.

But the FTA’s final report, which is expected later this summer, may ultimately show whether or not the T has really turned the page on its history of safety failures and a lackadaisical attitude towards needed improvements.

Stacy Thompson, executive director of LivableStreets Alliance, told The Boston Globe Monday that while the recommendations from 2019 were non-binding, implementing recommendations from the FTA will be mandatory.

“This is really a make or break moment for the T,” she said. “If we don’t get it right, that’s how you end up with service cuts.”

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