We’ve recently received expressions of concern about plans for the Fitchburg line to shut down during certain weekends to support construction activities.
For more detail, please see the MBTA’s page on the issue.
Overall, I don’t think this is a case of bureaucratic arrogance or incompetence. The MBTA actually does have a finite number of operating diesel buses and they are in demand at various construction locations. Construction projects compete for use of available buses. For example, buses will replace subway service on the busy Red Line while the Longfellow Bridge is under construction. These diversions affect several weekends in the same period.
Hopefully, the huge benefits of the Fitchburg line improvements will be sufficient to woo riders back after this period of inconvenience.
Here is what we received from MBTA when we inquired about the issue:
My name is Joe Nolan and I am coordinating outreach for the Fitchburg Project. Darrin McAuliffe asked me to respond to your constituents concern. Weekend Service on the Fitchburg Line is curtailed to support the Fitchburg Line Rehabilitation effort.
Currently, weekend service terminates at South Acton Station, this has been the case since June 1st of 2013. Beginning on Saturday September 7th weekend service will be terminated at Brandies/Roberts Station, at that time there will no longer be weekend service to all Weston, Lincoln, Concord, and South Acton stations (as well as the remainder of the line already out of service). This Brandies to Fitchburg Weekend service outage ends on Novemeber 24th 2013 when normal weekend service returns during the winter months. Additional extended closures of the line are planned for the next two years beginning again next spring (see attached Charts).
The Fitchburg Project entails hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements aimed at reducing trip times and improving reliability. In order to undertake this level of construction, (7 bridges, 4 stations, 9 Miles of new double track, rehabilitation of the signal and grade crossing protection systems, etc.) the project will require some 50 plus weekend shutdowns over the next several years. The MBTA and private carriers available have limited capacity to provide substitute busing system wide at any given time, the scope and length of this project determined that planned outages with no replacement service was the most prudent, predictable, and practical approach to ensure completion in a timely manner.
The MBTA is in the business of providing transportation so the decision to undertake the no weekend service option was not undertaken lightly, the inconvenience to those who rely on weekend service is real and cannot be denied, it is however the best and really only way to undertake a project of this magnitude efficiently. This is the same basic program of weekend service outages that was employed on the Old Colony Commuter lines to the south shore over the last couple of years to allow for its rehabilitation as well.
I have provided you with some documents to provide your information and will allow you and your staff to answer constituent Inquiries. Constituents impacted by these outages can also be directed to our Fitchburg Project Hotline at 617-721-7506 or the Project Inquiry Email at FitchburgProject@MBTA.com
I hope this email and backup material answers any questions you have, I am available at your convenience by email or cell.
Thank you, Joe