MBTA Preparing for Winter Commuting

It’s the new reality for the MBTA- Even on warm days, the entire agency is consumed by thoughts of snow.

“We’ve been preparing for winter since the summer began, and we’ll work on preparations right up until the snow flies," says interim General Manager Frank DePaola. “We’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to handle anything that comes at us."

DePaola's bold prediction about this upcoming winter comes after months of improvements on the T, part of an $80 million plan to avoid a repeat of last year.

On the red line, miles third rail is being replaced between Dorchester and Quincy. The work is set to be done by December. Last year, the build up of snow and ice on old sections of third rail halted train service.

On the orange line— another trouble spot last year— new heaters are being installed on the rails north of Boston.

But that’s not all.

New snow clearing equipment is set to arrive soon, and the T will increase the use of a special de-icing compound used in Chicago and New York.

“That is something the T did not do prior, but at the very end of the season we started to experiment with it and we had very good results," DePaola said.

On the commuter rail, 33 new locomotives are already in service, with several more expected by the start of winter.

“More than half of the daily fleet will be relatively new pieces of equipment," the GM boasts.

Keolis, which operates the commuter rail, is also hiring staff to better handle customer questions.

Preparations are underway on the roads, too. Boston is stocking up on twelve thousand tons of salt to fend off the flakes. Across the harbor, Logan is busy preparing too.

“We’re prepping our equipment, we’ve got new pieces of equipment that’s coming on board getting ready for the winter season," Massport Director of Aviation Ed Freni says.

One of the new additions, another huge plow. It can clear about 10,000 feet of runway in just 12 minutes. Necn was allowed on the tarmac to see some of the other equipment the airport relies on, including massive snow melters.

“Last winter we only got ourselves in one time, we had a kind of predicament, where we couldn’t keep up with melting," Freni recalls.

The airport says it only had to shut down one time all last winter too, despite being buried by a record breaking 110” of snow. Staying open is a must, adds Freni.

“There’s airplanes out there that aren’t scheduled to come to Logan that might divert to Logan so we have to be ready.”

Of course an open airport doesn’t mean no delays, but Massport stays in regular contact with airlines to avoid as many as possible.

“We meet with them, sometimes 48/72 hours before an event to let them know what our plan is," Freni explains. 

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