With the 30-day closure of the MBTA's Orange Line just a day away, the City of Boston is rushing to prepare for the major shakeup to the transportation system with an "all hands on deck" effort that will temporarily reshape its streets, Mayor Michelle Wu said Thursday.
The Orange Line's trains are set to stop running at 9 p.m. Friday, and even as the closure draws nearer, new information and changes to the shutdown plan continued to trickle out. The city has already begun transforming streets, including major changes at Copley Square and Government Center, where new bus lanes and parking spaces, parking restrictions and street closures were in place.
"This has been an all-hands-on-deck, cross-departmental effort," Wu said, warning that it's going to affect many people in Boston, not just people who take the T, since street closures and more people using the roads will affect drivers, too.
She urged employers in the city to be patient with their workers as they navigate what's expected to be a hectic commute Monday.
"Please ensure that you're not penalizing any of your work force for coming in late or not being able to make it on time because this will impact every single commuter," she said.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation engineers modeled how bad congestion is expected to get in Boston during the morning commute while Orange and Green line service is suspended in August and September. Use the slider to see the before and after.
Wu gave an update on Orange Line repair shutdown with Boston Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge and other city staff.
"We know that this month is going to be challenging, but if there's one thing that I want everyone in Boston to hear, it's that we have your back, we will get through this and we will have a stronger transportation system when this is done," Franklin-Hodge said.
Orange Line trains aren't running from Aug. 19 to Sept. 18 and Green Line trains don't run past Government Center from Aug. 22 to Sept. 18, giving the MBTA a chance to complete major maintenance work on the troubled train system. Commuters will have to temporarily turn to alternative ways of getting around, like the commuter rail, Bluebikes or shuttle buses the MBTA is putting on Boston's roads during the shutdown.
“It’s a huge bummer,” said Kelli Alvarez. “I’m not going to bother with the shuttle buses since they’re not going to go to Downtown Crossing, and I’m going to try and take two other buses and make ends meet that way.”
“My plan is to walk all the way to the commuter rail,” said Northeastern student Cheryl Daniel. “Ride two lines and then get back, I don’t know, I have to walk, I have to figure it out.”
“I have to go into the office two days a week so I take the Orange Line from here to Downtown Crossing and back,” said Nora Sheridan. “I’m going to try biking to work for the first time ever…hopefully I don’t get killed by a car.”
“I’m going to walk to Forest Hills station,” said Northeastern student Anne Okrah. “Try to take the commuter…probably have to leave even earlier to make sure I make it to classes on time.”
Wu discussed how important the new bus-only lanes will be for getting people around during the Orange Line shutdown, and had a message for drivers: "Avoid those lanes, do not park in them. We will be enforcing and ticketing and towing."
Drivers will be affected all over the city, not just at bus stops. Parking spaces will be taken away at some intersections along shuttle routes to accommodate the charter buses' turning radius.
The MBTA responded Wednesday to growing pressure to include Chinatown in its shuttle bus plan after the Boston neighborhood was omitted from its original plan for shuttle buses to replace Orange Line service during the monthlong shutdown.
Residents had a chance to weigh in Wednesday during a meeting with local leaders and the MBTA. The meeting began at 6 p.m. at Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Chinatown. The MBTA announced the plan on Twitter while the meeting was still underway, saying it intended to add a stop to the outbound Silver Line route.
The new plan involves adding two more bus options to service Chinatown and Tufts Medical Center.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation said Wednesday that the Southwest Corridor Park bike path will now only have a few days of "rolling detours," as opposed to two weeks of moving closures.
That's after a public outcry about the original plan, since the bike path is already popular with commuters and runs parallel to the Orange Line for about four miles from Forest Hills, the train's southern terminus, to Back Bay, linking Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Back Bay and the South End.
During a news conference Monday, officials referred to this project and its impact as the "Orange Line Super Surge," while detailing how it will be felt by almost all commuters in this region. They even urged people to change their commute if they can.
“All roadway users, whether you drive bike or walk, will see changes in your everyday commute and your commute will likely be longer In these areas," State Highway Administrator at MASSDOT Jonathan Gulliver said earlier in the week. "If possible, avoid the region altogether until the diversion has concluded."
Transit officials have released an image to illustrate the traffic impacts the train closures will likely have. The red shown over much of the Greater Boston area represents the temporary congestion the Orange Line project is projected to cause. The anticipated delays are frustrating to many people in the area.
Wu spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since the MBTA released its initial plans to help commuters navigate the coming 30-day Orange Line shutdown, acknowledging that the early days "are going to be iffy."