The MBTA abruptly shut down service on parts of the Green and Orange lines near Haymarket Station Thursday night after support columns for the Government Center Garage were found to be “severely deteriorated” by engineers inspecting the subway tunnels, officials said.
Shuttle buses will replace service on parts of the Green Line indefinitely, Orange Line service is suspended between Back Bay and North Station, and several streets around the garage will also be closed to traffic, due to public safety concerns, according to the MBTA and Boston police.
The discovery of structural problems comes just three months after a deck collapse at the private Government Center Garage resulted in the death of a worker. The garage is being demolished to make way for “Bulfinch Crossing,” a multibillion-dollar commercial development.
The structural problems are the latest calamity for the MBTA, whose aging subway system has brought federal scrutiny that identified several safety issues, including insufficient staffing.
A passenger was dragged to his death by a Red Line train in April. This week, new Orange Line trains were taken out of service over safety concerns.
The support column issue was discovered by engineers working for The HYM Investment Group, the lead developer on the garage project. Engineers inspecting the columns notified the MBTA “that the garage’s support columns that pass through MBTA tunnels near Haymarket station are severely deteriorated, creating an unsafe environment in the tunnel area for Green Line and Orange Line trains to operate through,” the transit agency said in a statement.
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak expressed anger at the contractor over the service disruption.
“This service disruption as a result of HYM’s project is unacceptable and the MBTA will seek to hold HYM Construction accountable for all costs associated with this event,” Poftak said in the statement. “Riders’ safety is our top priority and unfortunately, as a result of this private party’s project, we must divert trains until the tunnels can be inspected and cleared by independent experts.”
In a separate statement, the developers of the garage project said the column was compromised by water damage not related to the demolition of the garage.
“A subsurface column in proximity to the Green and Orange Lines was identified as compromised from years of water damage,” National Real Estate Advisors and the HYM Investment Group said in a statement. “The condition of this column is unrelated to the demolition work at the Government Center Garage. In an abundance of caution, the MBTA is diverting operations around the Haymarket MBTA Station.”
Rail service beneath the garage will not resume until a team of structural engineers examines the infrastructure above and below ground, executes emergency repairs, and confirms that subway service can resume safely, the MBTA said. The T expects that service will be affected for several days.
While train service and access to downtown streets are limited, the MBTA encouraged commuters to consider working from home if possible.
Boston police said several streets, “including portions of Congress Street, Surface Road, New Chardon Street, and Sudbury Street,” are expected to be closed for several days.
The detours and service changes are similar to those implemented in the spring, when the construction worker was killed while demolishing the garage.
In March, Peter Monsini, 51, of South Easton, died after the garage floor underneath him buckled as he was operating a piece of heavy machinery on a Saturday afternoon. The tragedy led to service being suspended beneath the garage and a construction stoppage as officials worked to ensure the site was safe.
Construction has been suspended since March, and the inspections Thursday were part of an effort to restart the work.
Later Thursday evening, as commuters streamed out of Government Center station, they were met by an ample supply of shuttle buses. An MBTA employee directed them to the buses, which had plenty of space for passengers.
Still, MBTA riders expressed frustration at the latest service disruption that seemed to come without warning.
“It’s just ridiculous,” said Luiz, a man who would only provide his first name.
His mother, who has lived in Boston for more than 40 years, said she had never before taken a T shuttle bus. “There’s so much backtrack,” she said. “They should have more buses that try to get you to the closest stations [instead of] making you go further up.”
She and her son ultimately decided to call an Uber.
The Federal Transit Administration last week issued a scathing review of MBTA safety issues and ordered the T to increase staffing at its operations control center, improve general safety operating procedures, and address delayed critical track maintenance and safety recertifications for employees whose credentials have lapsed.
The T reduced subway service this week in response to the FTA’s finding that it does not have enough dispatchers in the control center to safely manage the system.
Green Line is replaced by shuttle buses between Gov't Ctr and Lechmere. Orange Line is suspended between North Station and Back Bay due to a structural issue with the Government Center Garage. Customers can use Green Line service through Downtown.— MBTA (@MBTA) June 23, 2022