A plan submitted by the MBTA earlier this month to reduce the odds of its workers getting injured or killed while working on subway tracks needs to be redone immediately because it includes fixes not scheduled until next year, the Federal Transit Administration says.
In a letter to MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng, an FTA safety official said it's done with dawdling and that the T has to figure out how to accomplish all its proposals in two months - not over the next year - or risk having the administration ban all MBTA workers from Red, Green, Blue and Orange Line tracks.
In a separate letter, the official - Joe DeLorenzo, chief safety officer for the FTA's Office of Transit Safety and Oversight - said the MBTA has made good strides to addressing safety issues found last year, but that it needs to "develop an urgent hiring plan and strategy" immediately for hiring new safety managers and engineers, because it doesn't have enough to do all the required work on time.
In his letter demanding a two-month timeline for making tracks safer for workers, DeLorenzo writes:
Given the immediate risk to worker safety on the ROW, FTA requires direct and focused actions. Please resubmit the Work Plan by June 5, 2023,
with revisions that address and implement ROW safety processes and procedures within the next 60 days.
The threat to ban workers from tracks is similar to one DeLorenzo issued in April, after a worker was injured around 1 a.m. on April 13 while working on overhead power lines on the Blue Line at Revere Beach. Following that incident, the FTA required detailed plans from the T on how it would fix everything from its radio systems, to how it schedules workers on tracks to creating a system that would let workers report possible safety problems without fear of retribution.
In a separate letter, DeLorenzo did approve the T's plan for dealing with a series of safety issues the FTA found last year - which led to the current reduced number of trains because there weren't enough dispatchers, among other problems - but added:
FTA remains concerned about the staffing levels within the Safety Department. MBTA must expedite action to staff the Safety Department, including detailees and embedded contractors, if necessary, and conduct weekly staffing updates with FTA. We believe this focus on safety staffing will help alleviate the capacity challenges the MBTA is facing and enable the agency to better to address the safety issues identified in the Safety Management Inspection (SMI) and implement Safety Management Systems
In a third letter, sent earlier this month, DeLorenzo approved the T's plans for securing disabled subway cars in yards, so that they would no longer simply roll onto the tracks.