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Choe: Work to address issues within MBTA advancing

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(The Center Square) – Over the past year, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has addressed 51% of safety actions it was cited for in a Federal Transit Administration safety report.

Katie Choe, acting chief of staff of the organization, told the Joint Committee on Transportation on Monday that the organization is diligently working to address the eight special directives and 42 findings in the federal organization’s report as improvements are being delivered to the system.

As previously reported by The Center Square, the MBTA received a June 15, 2022, report from the Federal Transit Administration which detailed issues needing to be addressed, such as staffing issues, general safety operations, delayed maintenance, and staff safety concerns.

“The MBTA has responded by developing 39 corrective action plans and one similarly structured work plan that are broken down into 599 separate action items,” Choe told the committee.

The actions, she said, are being tracked by the MBTA and the federal organization as plans are being approved and work is being done to correct the issues.

Rep. William M. Strauss, D-Bristol, chairman of the committee, said he thought the state, the MBTA, and the federal oversight agency were “all coming together and trying to find solutions.”

“We recognize that we need a transportation system; we need a public transit system in Massachusetts that the public can rely on and trust at a bare minimum,” Strauss said.

Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca told the committee there is an “urgency” to improve the safety and reliability of the state’s transit system. She stressed that the state, governor, Legislature, and MBTA employees would work together “to achieve new levels of transparency and trust” at the organization.

“We are laser-focused on running MBTA service that can be counted on, and that will meet our equity and resiliency goals and launch capital projects that will be in place for generations,” Fiandaca said.

MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng said the organization has worked to lift 99 speed restrictions, with 32 coming on the Orange Line and 42 from the Red Line. He also said there had been a 112% increase in monthly job application submittals as the organization offers $7,500 sign-on bonuses and free commercial driver’s license training.

“Public transportation is vital to public life and our economy,” Eng told the committee. “Every day, the dedicated workforce of the MBTA is committed to delivering. Is committed to delivering safe service to all of our riders. But when it’s not functioning the way it should, we all, our workforce, the public, our riders, the cities and towns and communities that we serve all suffer.”

The Legislature, Eng said, appropriated $378 million to the MBTA, and the organization has spent “about $110 million” to “help us improve safety and response.”

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