CommonWealth Investigation Results in Major T Repair Project

Last week, it was widely reported that the MBTA is to invest nearly $100 million to repair crumbling concrete railroad ties on its Plymouth and Middleborough commuter lines.  The news followed on the heels of a CommonWealth report on the MBTA decision and close to a year after the magazine was the first to bring the railroad tie problem to light with a special investigative report by Jack Sullivan entitled “Back Tracking.”

Last summer’s CommonWealth article alerted readers to the existence of the crumbling ties, exposing a significant safety concern that has grown worse over the months. CommonWealth’s partnership with the Gatehouse media group, which includes the Patriot Ledger and the Enterprise, helped to disseminate the information with subsequent stories written by Jack Sullivan.  As Jack explains, the original story and the incremental updates, were not easy to get.  T officials minimized the problem and were reluctant to talk about it, but Jack pieced the story together over several months by interviewing everyone from maintenance workers to engineers to concrete manufacturers. He also scoured government safety reports and court records, where he learned the T’s concrete tie manufacturer had installed faulty ties on other rail lines across the country.  Concern soon grew among local and state officials who asked for more information.  In response, the MBTA, under its General Manger Rich Davey, informed the Legislature that it would disrupt service and replace the ties, now deemed an imminent safety risk.

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