The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board awarded a $217.7 million contract to upgrade and modernize the signal systems on the Red and Orange Lines. Once complete, the new signal systems on both lines are expected to substantially improve service reliability and improve peak hour headways.

When paired with new fleet vehicles, the MBTA anticipates the new signal systems will allow:

  • Orange Line trains to run every four-and-a-half minutes during peak travel hours.
  • Red Line trains to run every three minutes between Alewife and JFK during peak hours.
  • Red Line trains to run every six minutes between Ashmont and JFK and Braintree and JFK.

“Upgrading our core infrastructure is absolutely critical to improving reliability for our customers,” said MBTA GM Luis Manuel Ramírez. “Replacing our signal systems with cutting edge technology will allow us to maximize the performance of our new fleet vehicles, increase capacity, and position us to respond to issues that may impact service faster and with more accurate information than we have today.”

Including signal upgrades, the MBTA is investing nearly $2 billion in both lines as part of the Red Line/Orange Line Infrastructure Improvement Program. The program also includes the procurement of over 400 new vehicles to replace the fleets of the Orange and Red Lines, and rebuilding and modernizing maintenance facilities.

The design-build project will result in upgrading signal technology to the next generation Digital Audio Frequency Track Circuits, from existing analog technology. The track circuits will be designed with the capacity to add additional speed commands in an effort to capitalize on the new fleet vehicles’ improved performance.

In addition to upgrading and modernizing the signal technology, the project will also replace the existing central instrument houses with the latest generation of train control technology on the Red Line in the area known as Columbia Junction, between North Quincy and Andrew stations. The project will also upgrade a series of switches at Andrew Station to a modern, remote controlled crossover. Additional work along the Orange Line includes replacement of all cabling and switch machines from Forest Hills to State Street.

The contract was awarded to Barletta Heavy Division. The full signal system replacement along both lines is expected to reach substantial completion in mid-2022.

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