May 2012

MBTA converts station, tunnel into training facility

by Nicole Schlosser, Senior Editor

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s plans to turn an unused train tunnel and station into a training facility will provide a dedicated location for transit police and first responders to train in at any time without inconveniencing passengers (rendering shown).

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s plans to turn an unused train tunnel and station into a training facility will provide a dedicated location for transit police and first responders to train in at any time without inconveniencing passengers (rendering shown).
Boston area transit police officers and first responders will soon have a dedicated location for training in emergency situations occurring in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway. Transit officials are turning an unused train tunnel and station into a training facility to teach officers how to handle underground emergencies within the MBTA system.

Using grant money from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), MBTA will convert the Oak Street railway into a “mock” train station to carry out drills, which will also be accessible to emergency responders from all surrounding cities and towns.

The idea to transition the tunnel and station into an emergency training center came about eight years ago once an old subway tunnel was no longer being used, MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan explained.

“We had been looking for a funding stream to get it constructed during that time period,” he said. “About two or three years ago, DHS funds were made available to retrofit the tunnel into a training facility.”

The DHS is providing $4 million in funds for the facilities. The project is fully funded by the federal grants. The project is supported by various local, state and federal emergency response agencies, including the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, Executive Office of Safety and Security, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Creating the facilities will consist of three phases and is anticipated to be complete in spring 2013. Phase one, which consists of water mitigation and structural repairs that will address long-term concrete and leak issues at the site, is expected to be completed by July, 2012. Phase two will include the delivery of two blue line cars and one green line trolley to the training center. The training facility will include a light rail vehicle, a heavy rail vehicle and a bus, allowing first responders to train in various scenarios that would involve each vehicle type.  This move is anticipated to be completed in July, 2012. Phase three will include the larger construction contract that will build out the center and install the necessary code and fire life safety components of the facility.

The renovation will provide a dedicated emergency training facility that first responders can train in any time without inconveniencing passengers with station shutdowns.

“We rely on first responders to respond to emergency situations in our subway system,” MacMillan said. “Currently, we have no area that is dedicated to training those responders to come into our tunnels and make emergency evacuations or do emergency work.”

To conduct training in the subway environment, he added, transit police need to either shut down a station or use a closed station, which is difficult to do since it requires stopping service.  

Transit police will be trained in how to respond to a terrorist attack, fire or smoke, and any type of collision or emergency situation that may occur in the tunnels with simulated incidents.

The facility will also feature two training classrooms. Observers will be able to watch the scenarios unfold on closed-circuit TV in the station.


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