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Officials detail street closures in Boston during Orange Line shutdown

Boston’s chief of streets discouraged people who typically take transit from driving as an alternative, saying one full Orange Line train would equal a 4-mile long line of traffic.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu urged employers Thursday not to penalize anyone who is late to work during the 30-day Orange Line shutdown, which begins Friday night, and city authorities detailed a multitude of road infrastructure and traffic changes to accommodate shuttle buses temporarily replacing the MBTA line.

“This will impact every single commuter,” Wu said at a news conference, where she provided an overview of the city’s plans for the transit closure. “Your commute will be affected in some way even if not directly on the Orange Line.”

Flanked by some cabinet chiefs and a pair of city councilors in City Hall’s traffic management center, Wu said the city of Boston is continuing to allow hybrid work at managers’ discretion.


“We as a workforce are also trying to model that flexibility and allowing for some decongestion of our roads wherever possible,” Wu said.

Students in the city’s public schools who are late for class will not be penalized, Wu said.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is shutting down the Orange Line from Oak Grove in Malden to Forest Hills in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood starting Friday at 9 p.m. until the morning of Sept. 19. The move is expected to bring as many as 200 shuttle buses onto city streets.

At Thursday’s news conference, Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the city’s chief of streets, ticked off a litany of road infrastructure and traffic changes being made to accommodate the shutdown.

There will be two transit hubs to facilitate transfers between the Orange and Green lines: Copley Square and Government Center. At those locations, city authorities have set aside extra curb space to allow people to get on and off more efficiently.

Dedicated bus lanes have been added or are being added in different parts of the city, including downtown, Copley, the West End, and Charlestown. The new bus lanes come with significant parking restrictions and if necessary cars will be towed to ensure that shuttle buses can pass through, officials said. Some blocks will be shut down to vehicles that are not buses.


For instance, Dartmouth Street will be closed to general traffic between St. James Avenue and Boylston Street. The block of State Street between Congress and Washington streets will be reserved for buses, as will Washington Street northbound between Williams Street and the Arborway.

In Copley, dedicated bus lanes have been added on Columbus Avenue, and Dartmouth, Boylston, and Clarendon streets. Around Government Center, bus lanes are being added on Congress, State, Court, and Cambridge streets.

Officials will monitor traffic flow along the shuttle routes and “adjust signal timing as necessary to prioritize the movement of shuttles,” officials said.

The city will study how the new bus lanes work, and some of them may stay after the shutdown, Wu said.

In Jamaica Plain, shuttle buses replacing the Orange Line will be traveling on streets that do not typically carry much bus traffic, which necessitates some changes. Some intersections will lose parking spaces so that the 45-foot long vehicles can safely make turns. Officials couldn’t say exactly how many parking spaces in Boston will be lost from all the roadway changes.

On some streets, turn restrictions may be added. And to assist persons with disabilities, Boston is designating curb space for accessible vans, in addition to space designated for shuttles, officials said.


The Bluebikes bike share system, meanwhile, will begin handing out free 30-day passes Friday, Franklin-Hodge said, and the city is expanding docks and adding valet services in some locations. The city will be installing additional bike parking corrals for people who ride their own bikes as well as temporary bike lanes, mostly downtown.

Franklin-Hodge also said the city is conducting an accessibility review of sidewalks and loading areas to address any potential hazards. Four design consultants and two pavement marking and road safety contractors are working to make the changes, he said.

The road infrastructure changes will affect traffic, and Franklin-Hodge discouraged people who typically take public transit from driving, noting that one full Orange Line train is equal to a 4-mile line of traffic.

“There is a way to get everywhere you’re going on transit,” he said.

Governor Charlie Baker, speaking Thursday during his monthly appearance on “Boston Public Radio,” said “tons of people” will be stationed along the Orange Line to help commuters. Despite the disruption, shutting down the line “is the right thing to do,” he said.

“It creates inconvenience and issues for people in the short term, which I get,” he said. “But I do believe the work will get done.”

Host Jim Braude asked Baker whether he is contemplating any shutdowns beyond one’s he already announced on the Orange Line and Green Line, which is closing from Union Square to Government Center from Aug. 22 until Sept. 19.

Baker, who had previously noted that the MBTA had shut down service many times in recent years, though never in such an extensive way, searched for an answer. ”The biggest issue ..” he said, before pausing.


”I’ll tell you what,” he said. “There’s certainly not going to be anything that’s going to happen before I’m on this show again. If I come back in September and there are plans associated with some of the other lines, I’ll definitely come prepared to discuss.”

The city of Boston is tallying up the costs of the Orange Line shutdown and will be in discussions with state authorities about potential reimbursements, Franklin-Hodge said. Local authorities plan to monitor continuously what is happening on the ground, what is working and what is not, and adapt accordingly.

“We know this shutdown is going to be disruptive and it’s going to be challenging,” he said.

Wu said the shutdown wouldn’t paralyze Boston but acknowledged “it will be impossible to avoid chaos altogether.”

“We’re doing the best that we can on the city side to make sure that we can supplement the outreach, but it’s been an incredibly short time frame,” she said.

Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald. Sahar Fatima can be reached at sahar.fatima@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @sahar_fatima.