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MBTA quiet about how slow zone crisis happened as speed restrictions persist across subway system

A Green Line train arrived at Park Street station in Boston.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Widespread slow zones continued to plague the MBTA subway system Friday more than a week after they were put in place as frustrated riders endured another day of extra long and slow commutes without an explanation from the agency or the governor’s office about what caused the latest transit crisis.

The MBTA is “optimistic” it will lift its 25 mile per hour speed restriction on the entire Green Line by Saturday morning, T Interim General Manager Jeff Gonneville announced during a press conference Friday afternoon, but 80 percent of the Blue Line, and more than 20 percent of the Red, Orange, and Mattapan Trolley lines still have speed restrictions.


Gonneville did not provide any update on how the agency misplaced or failed to create documentation to verify the safety of its tracks. The failure spurred the 25 mile per hour speed restriction last week — down from the top speed of 40 miles per hour — out of an abundance of caution, the T said at the time.

Since then, Gonneville said in-house and private engineering crews have been inspecting the tracks for defects and lifting speed restrictions where possible.

“As we continue to verify and validate track conditions, I’ll report on our findings and I will take the necessary actions to ensure that this never happens again,” Gonneville said. “A full and complete investigation is in process and I will take all necessary actions at the conclusion of the investigation.”

MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said the MBTA is still finalizing an agreement with an outside firm to do the investigation.

A Globe review found that the MBTA’s Director of Maintenance of Way job — responsible for track safety — appears to have been vacant since late last year. The previous director, Ray Martin, retired from the MBTA last year, when state payroll data show the T paid him a buyout of $51,094.39.


The MBTA’s job posting for the position shows the Director of Maintenance of Way is “responsible for the inspection, maintenance, repair, upgrade, design, construction, and all other activities associated with the Authority’s safety critical track and roadway infrastructure.” A LinkedIn posting for the job appeared last week, while the job listing on the MBTA’s site says it was “posted more than 30 days ago.”

Martin’s LinkedIn profile shows he held the job for less than a year. The previous Director of Maintenance of Way, Joseph Gushue, received a buyout of $57,615.92 from the T in 2021, state payroll data show, and his LinkedIn profile shows he left the agency in December 2021, three months before Martin’s says he started. Gushue is now working as a consultant for the T doing track evaluation on the Orange Line, Pesaturo said.

Since Martin’s departure, the responsibilities of the role have been managed by the Chief of Engineering and Maintenance, Joe Cheever, and the deputy director, according to Pesaturo.

Pesaturo said the job was first posted in November, but applicants did not meet the requirements, and it has been posted continuously since then. There is not an interim Director of Maintenance of Way, he said.

“The senior management team at the MBTA has been aggressively addressing maintenance of way issues on corridors and in the absence of an individual in the Director of Maintenance of Way position, other managers have been sharing the Director’s responsibilities,” Pesaturo said in an e-mail.


On Friday, Governor Maura Healey announced she is asking the Legislature for $20 million in funding for the MBTA to “better recruit and retain employees to meet its needs and deliver safe, reliable service across the system.”

Karissa Hand, a spokesperson for Healey, said information from the investigation into what caused the systemwide slow down will be shared with the public.

“While initial review indicates that staff vacancies contributed to the documentation issue, the Governor has directed the MBTA to conduct a thorough review of this situation and take immediate corrective actions to ensure accountability,” Hand said in a statement Friday night.

Meanwhile, MBTA commutes continue to be unreliable.

MBTA travel time data analyzed by the public transit advocacy organization TransitMatters shows that a roundtrip on the Red Line is nearly 66 minutes slower than it would be if trains were able to run at full speed, up from around 40 minute slower last week. The Orange Line and Blue Line are now more than 16 minutes slower, the dashboard shows, up from fewer than four minutes.

Before last week’s restrictions, 7.5 percent of the entire subway system’s tracks had slow zones, according to T data.

Gonneville cautioned that riders should “continue to plan for longer headways and additional travel time throughout the system.”

The MBTA has so far said very little about how the documentation failure occurred. The T’s state safety oversight office, the Department of Public Utilities, said it conducted an inspection of the Red Line on March 6 between Ashmont and Savin Hill stations and “identified concerning conditions and violations of track standards that required immediate corrective action,” a spokesperson said.


MBTA slow zone data shows that the T only had one slow zone in place in that area as of Feb. 28: a 10 mile-per-hour speed restriction on an 800-foot stretch on the southbound tracks at Fields Corner Station due to track issues.

On March 7, the DPU ordered the T to provide a daily report of its most serious track defects on the Red Line that require immediate repair, a report of any new serious defects, and a corrective action plan that identifies the immediate repairs needed, a DPU spokesperson said.

Gonneville said that in conversations with the DPU following this Red Line inspection, it became clear that the T did not have the documentation to confirm where all of the track defects are throughout the entire system.

Samantha J. Gross of the Globe, and Globe correspondent Ashley Soebroto contributed to this report.

Taylor Dolven can be reached at Follow her @taydolven. Amanda Kaufman can be reached at Follow her @amandakauf1.