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Mayor Wu pushes for lengthy shutdowns to solve MBTA issues

“We’ve seen such frequency of incidents now, we can no longer tolerate tinkering around the edges or just trying to fix things up here or there.”

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu at a May 24 press conference. Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe

Mayor Michelle Wu is advocating that the MBTA shut down major sections to allow for time to fix the large number of infrastructure problems.

The MBTA:

In an appearance on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” as part of “Mondays with the Mayor,” Wu told host Tiziana Dearing that longer, larger shutdowns would be the most effective way for Boston to solve the issues associated with its “aging system” of public transportation. 

Wu suggested we have to “rip the Band-Aid off”: shut down big chunks of the T and get the work done, rather than doing small pieces occasionally. 

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“I know that’s painful, because it would be tremendously disruptive, but we are at that point where prolonging this will make it worse and continue to bring about safety issues,” Wu said. “Plus, the city of Boston can play a big role in trying to ensure that there are reasonable alternatives.”

She said we are at a point where our only option is to think on a large scale, and she has shared this idea with the MBTA. The authority, which is under increased federal scrutiny, has seen a lot of problems recently — including an Orange Line train that caught fire while carrying passengers across a bridge last week.

The topic was brought up by a daily Red Line commuter who called in to voice her concerns about the MBTA.

“There have been mechanical issues, a ton of delays, and with things like the fire on the Orange Line, we are often not reassured,” the caller said. 

Wu said the biggest issue is the length of time the T has been neglected.

“We are where we are because of an aging system — many of the train cars decades past their useful life, the tracks needing to be replaced … the technology very, very out of date — and we are now seeing that that funding that didn’t get put in along the way to upgrade, improve, maintain is now all coming due in a huge bill right now,” Wu said. 

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She referenced a bill that both the state House and the Senate have voted through that would add two seats to the board of the directors of the MBTA, one for the mayor of Boston to delegate, and one for another MBTA community to have a direct voice. This bill, which is waiting to be approved by Gov. Charlie Baker, would be “hugely impactful,” said Wu. 

“We’ve seen such frequency of incidents now, we can no longer tolerate tinkering around the edges or just trying to fix things up here or there,” Wu said.

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