Major work to begin on red, orange line signal upgrades

Marcony Almeida

T

MBTA overseers will be asked to approve a $218 million contract to upgrade the train control signal systems on the Red Line and Orange Line, work that T officials say is critical to meeting subway reliability goals, according to the SHNS.

The upgrades are intended to make it quicker and easier for the MBTA to make adjustments to track speed allowances and to repair the signal system when necessary. The new system will also work in tandem with the new Red Line and Orange Line cars the T plans to put into service over the next few years, allowing more trains to run more frequently.

The MBTA expects the signal upgrade work will be substantially complete on the Red Line by December 2021 and on the Orange Line by April 2022. Once paired with a fleet of brand new trains on both lines, the T expects to have trains run three minutes apart in the downtown core of the Red Line and four and a half minutes apart on the Orange Line. “It gives us a modern system that allows us to actively manage the speeds when it comes to the signal process … and it provides us with a new way to provide analytics around how our system is performing and things that are causing signal warnings,” MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez told reporters.

“It’s also exciting for us because once we get this in place and we also have the new vehicles with that technology in place, that’s what gets us to the three-minute headways.” Ramirez said Monday that the Orange Line should be done first, running all new trains on an upgraded signal system by 2023-2024, and that the Red Line will be in a position to reach the goal of three-minute headways between 2024 and 2025.

MBTA commuters are accustomed to delays on the Red Line and Orange Line due to signal problems and T officials acknowledged Monday that riders “are anxiously awaiting” days with fewer signal system problems. The T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board will be asked Monday afternoon to approve a design-build contract with Barletta Heavy Division, Inc., for the Red Line and Orange Line signal upgrades worth up to $217,677,000. The T said it anticipates issuing a notice to proceed later this month and physical work will begin in about a year.

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