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T Declares Victory Over Notorious ‘Tufts Curve’ Slow Zone On the Orange Line

MBTA workers replace rail inside the Haymarket Orange Line station in 2020. Courtesy of the MBTA.

The MBTA says that it's finally fixed a section of worn-out subway tracks near downtown Boston that has been slowing down Orange Line trains since 2019.

In the spring of 2022, inspectors from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) cited poor track conditions on the "Tufts curve," located at the southern end of the tunnel that carries the Orange Line under Washington Street in downtown Boston.

That curve "has been under speed restriction for an extended period dating back to 2019," wrote the FTA's inspectors. "MBTA must correct the track defects between Tufts Medical Center and Back Bay Stations on both north- and south-bound tracks."

To address that directive, former Governor Charlie Baker and former MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak announced an unprecedented 30-day closure of the entire Orange Line last August.

Baker and Poftak stressed that the closure would allow the T to fix the Tufts curve and other slow zones across the Orange Line on an accelerated timeline.

But after 30 days of suffering on slow shuttle buses, riders returned to the Orange Line to find that trains were running considerably slower than they did before the closure.

Today, the MBTA announced that it had really and truly completed its repair work on the Tufts curve, and that the Orange Line could once again run at full speed in both directions.

The T also announced that federal inspectors had vetted the work, which will let the T close out one of the 39 "corrective action plans" that the FTA imposed on the agency after last year's safety inspection.

Of course, there's still plenty of work to do on the rest of the MBTA system.

In June 2022, federal inspectors found that nearly 10 percent of the Red, Orange, and Blue lines were under speed restrictions because of poor track maintenance.

In the year since then, the T's efforts to improve track inspections have only uncovered more problems.

According to the latest speed restrictions report on the MBTA's website, speed restrictions currently affect 23 percent of the MBTA's rapid transit network.

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