MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said Friday that the ongoing Orange Line project is now two-thirds complete and on schedule to reopen on Sept. 19.
"We are on day 21 of our 30-day surge of the Orange Line," he said. "We have less than 10 days to go. We are making good progress, and again, we are confident we will be reopening on the morning of Monday the 19th."
When the Orange Line does come back online, Poftak said there will be at least 60 new Orange Line trains in service.
"We started out with 30 available before the surge. We are currently at 60. We've doubled the amount and will continue to work to get more cars available."
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He said two slow zones have already been eliminated, with four remaining. About 50% of planned rail replacement and 72% of track replacement has been completed.
In his last official update a week ago, Poftak had said that the work being done on the Orange Line was 50% complete and the project was on schedule to reopen as planned on Sept. 19. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker walked the tracks on Tuesday and expressed optimism that the busy route will reopen on time.
So far, the month-long shutdown of the Orange Line has not had a major impact on highway traffic, though some regular Orange Line commuters say their daily commutes have been lengthened by having to take shuttle buses or the commuter rail while the work is being done. Traffic on area roadways did begin to tick up a bit this week as more people returned to work after the Labor Day holiday.
Poftak said Thursday, with Boston Public Schools students returning to class, was the busiest day the MBTA has seen since the shutdown began.
"With post-Labor Day traffic, we've seen an uptick in traffic," he said. "We've had students return on the north side of the line. The bulk of the students in the Boston area returned yesterday, and we also saw really challenging traffic conditions."
But Poftak said things were much slower on Friday, with no major issues reported.
The MBTA suspended passenger service along the 11-mile Orange Line on Aug. 19 to complete five years’ worth of track and signal replacement and maintenance as well as other projects in 30 days. Service is scheduled to resume at 5 a.m. on Sept. 19.
The work is all part of the MBTA’s response to a safety Federal Transit Administration review following several problems and accidents that have led to injuries, and in one case, the death of a rider. The FTA released a scathing 90-page report two weeks ago that said the MBTA has for years prioritized capital projects over safety and maintenance.
Even while the FTA’s review was ongoing, a fire on an Orange Line train in July sent passengers scrambling out of windows and prompted one to jump into a river.
During the shutdown, the transit agency is providing shuttle buses between stations, while commuter rail lines are running with increased frequency.
The Orange Line normally handles about 100,000 trips per day, according to the MBTA, bringing commuters to work, students to school, and visitors to many of Boston’s top tourist attractions.