- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - MBTA officials said Thursday they expect to resume Red Line service to North Quincy on the snow-clogged Braintree branch, a key victory toward resuming full service after a series of pounding storms buried the region.

Officials said the service should begin Friday morning, pending successful testing on the third rail.

MBTA General Manage Beverly Scott said that about 200 workers from the MBTA, a local service employees union, and contractors worked Thursday to remove snow between the JFK/UMass and North Quincy stations. She said that involved clearing track infrastructure, including switches and the third rail, necessary for the resumption of service.

“We are getting closer and closer to restoring our system to full capacity,” Scott said in a statement.

Extending service to North Quincy will also help free up much needed buses that have been providing shuttle service between the stations, Scott said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker is planning to offer more details about the administration’s MBTA recovery plan during a press conference at the Statehouse on Friday.

Baker said during his monthly “Ask the Governor” program on WGBH-FM on Thursday that he’s looking forward to a “big conversation” about possible long-term fixes for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, but maintained that new taxes were not the first place to look for answers.

The system has been overwhelmed by a spate of brutal winter storms, leading to equipment breakdowns, massive delays and, at times, a complete shutdown of service.

Scott announced last week she would leave her post in April, despite receiving a vote of confidence from the T’s seven-member board of directors.

The board, which is not controlled by Baker, is expected to name an interim general manager and begin a nationwide search for a permanent successor to Scott. The governor said he was seeking a significant role in the process.

“I hope and expect that we will be able to influence that decision,” he said.

Baker suggested that after the board narrowed down a list of potential candidates, he could interview the finalists and make a recommendation to the board.

A caller to the program asked Baker how he could square his desire to upgrade the MBTA with his pledge not to hike taxes during his first term. The Republican governor said he found it “disappointing” that many people want to simply raise taxes before considering other factors, such as whether the MBTA has expanded too rapidly in recent years.

“There are real questions and real issues here, and I’m happy to have a big conversation about it” he said. “But this notion that we should just automatically push that button (taxes) first before we have any of the analysis of how we got here or why we’re here or how we get out, just strikes me as odd.”

Baker was optimistic the T, which has been gradually restoring routes and reopening stations, would be ready to provide an adequate level of service Monday, when February school vacation ends in Massachusetts.

He said he had not personally ridden on the transit system since becoming governor, but hoped to do so in the future. In the past, Baker said he took commuter trains to work from his Swampscott home and was a frequent T passenger during his college days at Harvard.

___

Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc contributed to this report.


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