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One more down, 219 to go: MBTA eliminates years-old Orange Line slow zone

The stretch of track between Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay — known as the Tufts Curve — had been under speed restrictions since 2019.

An Orange Line train arrived at the Oak Grove MBTA station Sept. 19, 2022. Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe, File

In a long-sought win for Orange Line riders, the MBTA recently completed repairs on the so-called Tufts Curve, returning the major section of track to full speeds after several years of slow zones.

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Speeds on the Tufts Curve were reduced to 10 mph between 2019 and 2022, rising to 18 mph on the northbound stretch following the 30-day Orange Line closure last fall, the MBTA said in a press release Tuesday. The 981-foot span of track runs through the tunnel between the Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay stations.

The Tufts Curve was one of the longstanding issues the Federal Transit Administration highlighted in its 2022 review of the MBTA. The repairs were among 39 corrective action plans the T created in response to the FTA’s highly critical Safety Management Inspection Report.


The curved track and limited windows for repairs made the work complex and time-consuming, according to the T press release.

“Accomplishing this work was truly a team effort with contributions from many groups, including our engineers, maintenance, capital transformation, and compliance experts,” MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng said in a statement. “I thank them for their dedication and hard work to address the vital track infrastructure work.”

In a letter to Eng Monday, federal transit officials agreed to close out the Tufts Curve corrective action plan in light of the completed repairs.

“This CAP closure represents a tremendous amount of work, and FTA greatly appreciates your efforts,” wrote Joe DeLorenzo, an associate administrator and chief safety officer with the FTA.

According to the MBTA’s speed restrictions dashboard, there are 219 restrictions remaining throughout the subway system as of Wednesday, covering 32.1 miles of track. 

“While there is still work to do across the system, the completion of the Tufts Curve section of track represents an important step towards restoring the level of service our riders deserve,” Eng said.


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