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MBTA should tell riders when Orange Line will be faster, Charlie Baker says

Gov. Charlie Baker said the T needs to let riders know when speed restrictions will be lifted on the Orange Line. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
Gov. Charlie Baker said the T needs to let riders know when speed restrictions will be lifted on the Orange Line. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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Gov. Charlie Baker put pressure on MBTA officials to tell riders when they can expect faster service on the Orange Line, which remains slow nearly a month after the shutdown.

Baker told reporters Monday that while the T has lifted speed restrictions in a number of areas that were addressed during the 30-day shutdown, others haven’t been lifted “as fast as they said they were going to.”

“My view at this point is they owe the public an answer as to when people can expect those speed restrictions to be lifted,” he said.

According to the latest slow zone tracker data from TransitMatters, a trip between Oak Grove and North Station, which took 13-14 minutes before the shutdown, is now taking more than 22 minutes.

MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said Tuesday that the T is in the process of lifting the slow zones between Assembly to Wellington and Assembly to Sullivan, and “speed limits throughout those zones are currently being raised.”

Speed limits vary at different points across the Orange Line, and in some areas lower speeds of 18 to 25 mph are considered normal, Pesaturo said.

The T has lifted speed restrictions including Ruggles crossover, which is now 40 mph; the Tufts Curves is at 18 mph; and Downtown Crossing to State is at its design speed of 25 mph.

In other slow zones, North Station is currently at 10 mph, but will be increased to 40 mph; Community College to Sullivan Flyover is 25 mph; the Sullivan Flyover to Sullivan station is at 40 mph; Sullivan station over Sullivan Flyover is currently at 10 mph but will be raised to 40 mph; and Sullivan Flyover to Community College and Community College to North Station is at 10 mph and will be raised to 40 mph, he said.

During a Senate hearing in Boston last Friday, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said he could not provide a specific date for when slow zones would be lifted, saying it was dependent on field conditions and the judgment of field inspectors.

He said he failed to communicate that track engineers identified additional work that they wanted to complete before the winter, necessitating additional speed restrictions between North Station and Assembly Square.

“If I put a date in place, it doesn’t prioritize safety,” Poftak said. “It puts pressure on field staff to make a decision that is not based on what is the safest condition in the field.”

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