After Long Delay, First Renovated Historic MBTA Trolley Hits the Tracks

The NBC10 Investigators have been tracking the $8 million project, which was originally slated to be complete more than two years ago. The first rebuilt historic Mattapan Line trolley carried passengers during the morning rush hour on Monday.

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The long wait for is over.

On Monday morning during rush hour, a refurbished historic trolley carried passengers along the MBTA's Mattapan Line.

The test ride went smoothly, according to the T. Around 9 a.m., the trolley was pulled out of service so more operators could train on the new technology.

Along with fresh paint and other modern amenities like LED lighting, the biggest improvements are under the hood: new propulsion systems that will provide smoother and much quieter rides.

"It's very important for our trains to be upgraded and updated so we can ride in comfort and we can have a reliable mode of transportation going through our community," said Mela Miles, a transit advocate with Roxbury-based Alternative for Community and Environment. "That's our lifeline to get us from point A to point B."

As the NBC10 Boston Investigators were the first to report last year, the $8 million project to upgrade the trolleys is now nearly three years behind schedule.

The first 1940s-era trolley was supposed to be back on the tracks in 2019, but we found the stripped-out shells sitting in a T warehouse.

Other deadlines also passed. In October, we found a trolley nowhere near ready to carry passengers.

And last December, the MBTA again moved the goalposts of when an upgraded trolley would be in service.

The T has cited manpower issues during the pandemic, an extensive lead paint removal process, and the complexities of retrofitting the historic trolleys with new technology as reasons why the project got off track.

"It's progress, but for the MBTA, it’s not progress to be proud of," said Sen. Walter Timilty, who called for a legislative investigation last month into the project's repeated delays. "We're almost three years behind schedule, and that's just not acceptable for ridership."

The hope is that there were lessons learned and the rest of the project will go much smoother.

The MBTA is targeting the summer for putting the second car in service, and then another rebuilt car every five months until all eight are available for service.

The trolley upgrades are just the first phase of a much larger project planned for the transit-dependent corridor. The next phase will bring safety and accessibility improvements to stations and eventually a new fleet of vehicles.

"I appreciate you staying on this story at NBC10 Boston," Timilty said. "What this does is keeps it in the forefront that it needs to get done."

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@nbcuni.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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