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I-Team: Transportation expert blames MBTA management for Orange Line shutdown

I-Team: Transportation expert blames management for Orange Line shutdown
I-Team: Transportation expert blames management for Orange Line shutdown 02:33

BOSTON - The MBTA train fire last month is the latest serious incident on the Orange Line. Now, tens of thousands of riders have to brace for a complete 30-day shutdown on that same line starting August 19.

Carl Berkowitz is a public transit expert and says the timing could not be worse. "That's the beginning of the school year, kids are going to school, people coming back from vacation," Berkowitz said. "We should have never gotten to this point."

The I-Team talked to experts who say the T should have been doing maintenance all along. Some placing the blame for the failure to keep the system in good repair on MBTA management. 

"When you think about the responsibility of management," Berkowitz said, "the responsibility of management is to make sure we didn't reach this point. Deferring maintenance is an obvious, something you never do in public transportation."

James Lambrechts is an engineering professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology. "We have been doing what needed to be done to keep the system moving, but not to have it in a state of good repair," Lambrechts said. "So things have just fallen way behind as far as getting the good repair done."

Lambrechts said it's not just the T, there are rusty highway bridges and infrastructure repairs that have to be done.

The critical work is scheduled to begin in two weeks and it won't be easy. "This is a complicated system, to take out some of these ties and to replace them," Lambrechts said. "It's going to be a major inconvenience, but it's going to get job done quicker and probably better because now they can concentrate on getting just that work done all at once."

But others say the T should have considered less drastic measures including scaling back service hours to get the work done and keep the system running. "Shutting it down, 24 hours for a month, may be an expedient and cost-effective way to get the job done but I think it doesn't serve the public very well," Berkowitz said.

The MBTA is currently under investigation by the Federal Transit Administration after several recent incidents involving safety. Experts say this push to expedite maintenance could help avoid a federal takeover of the system. 

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