- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Charlie Baker has unveiled a five-year, $83 million plan he says will improve the city public transportation system’s reliability during harsh winter weather like last winter’s, including money for snow removal equipment and infrastructure upgrades.

Baker, a Republican, said Thursday that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority needs to be better prepared for tough winters. The past winter dumped more than 9 feet of snow, forcing closures and delays to the subway, bus and commuter rail systems.

Baker said that, while the upgrades will help, he urged lawmakers to pass legislation that will make long-term improvements, including the creation of a new five-member financial control board with broad powers to manage all aspects of the MBTA for the next three to five years.

“We also can’t afford to have another winter like the last one,” Baker said as he detailed the immediate steps the MBTA, or the T, will take ahead of next winter. “This is Massachusetts after all.”

Baker’s plan would be paid for with $62 million in federal funds, $10 million in non-federal MBTA capital funds and about $11 million in operating funds. It will be presented to the state transportation board for approval next week.

The planned improvements include third-rail replacements and heater upgrades on outdoor sections of the Red and Orange lines and the installation of snow fences along vulnerable portions of the two subway lines to help block the accumulation of snow drifts.

The plan also calls for specialized snow removal equipment, new software to help keep track of snow removal operations and the formal establishment of an inmate snow removal assistance program with the Department of Correction.

Interim MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola said much of the work will be conducted before the end of December, when the heaviest snows typically begin to pound the region. He said the work will require portions of some lines to close at 9 p.m. and be replaced by shuttle buses to allow crews a full eight hours to work until 5 a.m.

Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said the twin goals at the MBTA during the winter remain the safety of passengers and the ability to provide reliable service.

“Safety means that we cannot strand our passengers in cars that need to be evacuated, we can’t leave them freezing on platforms waiting for trains and buses that they’re not sure when they will show up,” Pollack said. “Reliability means that people will be able to get to work this coming winter even when the weather is less than optimal.”

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