Massachusetts lawmakers are reacting to a report from the NBC10 Boston Investigators about a $7.9 million project to upgrade the historic trolleys on the Mattapan High Speed line.
Our investigation revealed the project is two years behind schedule and the shells of the stripped-down trolleys are still sitting in an Everett facility.
"It was pretty frustrating and I was angry, frankly, around the lack of communication," said Rep. William Driscoll.
Driscoll represents Milton, one of the communities served by the convenient transit connection to downtown Boston. Over the past two years, he told us he's unsuccessfully tried to get updates about the project on several different occasions.
On Monday, Driscoll and fellow state lawmaker Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley sent a letter to MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak to get answers about the delay.
"As you can imagine, we were not pleased when we heard the recent NBC10 Boston investigative report that the Mattapan trolley refurbishment project is now two years behind schedule," the letter began.
When we first contacted the MBTA about the project, the agency attributed a significant part of the delay to a lead paint removal process that was more complicated than anticipated.
The T also said COVID-19 hampered manpower at the maintenance facility because of employees out with illness or under quarantine requirements.
While Driscoll said he understands those obstacles, he said it still doesn’t explain a time period from August 2019 — when the lead paint remediation was completed — to the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
"There's a gap in time that really hasn't been addressed in terms of the lack of progress on these refurbishments," Driscoll said. "It doesn't add up."
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said engineering and design work was taking place behind the scenes, away from the trolley shells inside the warehouse.
"The project team was confronted with a number of obstacles beyond its control, but now the overhaul work is continuing at a steady pace," Pesaturo wrote in a statement. "The MBTA fully understands how important this project is to the communities served by the Mattapan Line."
By the end of the week, the MBTA will schedule a meeting with lawmakers to provide updates and answer questions.
The agency told us the first of the refurbished trolleys will be back on the tracks this August. In total, 1940s-era cars will eventually get the upgrades.
"We're going to be following it every month from this point out," Driscoll said. "I'll take them at their word, but we're going to trust and verify."