MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng said in a television interview Sunday that the $24.5 billion price tag announced last week to fix the T’s infrastructure is a “planning tool” for future work and does not represent the agency’s immediate needs.
That sum includes repairing and replacing tracks, station amenities, trains, signals, and more, to bring the neglected system back to a state of good repair. But “that’s not looking to say we need $24.5 billion today,” Eng said on WCVB-TV’s “On The Record” Sunday morning.
“That is a snapshot in time of our assets,” Eng said. “The idea is to be able to use this now to have those conversations on long-term funding and the ability to prioritize capital needs.”
Eng said that much of the MBTA’s rapid transit rails are significantly outside a state of good repair, “which is what people are experiencing” with the T’s speed restrictions. He emphasized that speed restrictions, while frustrating, help keep the system safe.
Eng doubled down on a commitment to eliminate all speed restrictions — which cover more than 20 percent of the subway — by the end of 2024, through incremental closures of all four subway and light rail lines.
That plan follows a more than two-week closure of the Red Line’s Ashmont and Mattapan lines, during which crews eliminated all the restrictions on that stretch of track. Eng said in the interview Sunday that closure’s success serves as a model for future work.
“By getting a dedicated work zone, it’s more efficient,” Eng said. “You’re never losing time for mobilization every night on and off, and you’re getting full productivity out of a full shift.”
Part of bringing the T back to a state of good repair involves replacing its aging train cars with newer rolling stock, he said.
The agency is still waiting on the complete delivery of 152 new Orange Line and 252 new Red Line cars ordered from Chinese company CRRC. Eng said a new timeline for delivery is in the works.
So far, the T has received 98 new Orange Line cars and 14 Red Line cars, he said.
Eng said the T is focusing on the quality of cars provided and said those delivered have been averaging more than 130,000 miles between failures — well over the 90,000-mile minimum stipulated in CRRC’s contract.
Eng said, “We’ve made some commitments that are very aggressive,” and he is optimistic about the agency’s future.
He said Monica Tibbits-Nutt, who last week was appointed Secretary of Transportation has been “very supportive,” and the two speak daily.
“Obviously, we need to be in concert with each other,” Eng said. “I value that relationship that we have.”