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Rail News: Passenger Rail

MBTA's fiscal oversight board details 'serious, deep-seated' problems


A recent analysis of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) finances, operations and management has revealed issues that are "more serious and deep-seated" than previously documented in a panel report issued in April.

Released yesterday by the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB), the new report identified the transit agency's structural challenges regarding increasing expenses, officials said on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) blog.

In particular, the MBTA's current operating budget, including debt service, was deemed unsustainable. If unaddressed, the agency's operating deficit could reach $427 million by fiscal year 2020, according to the report.

Additionally, the board's analysis put the MBTA's backlog of state-of-good-repair projects at $7.3 billion — up from a preliminary estimate of $6.7 billion last month.

"Without question, this report paints a bleak picture of the current state of the MBTA," said FMCB Chairman Joseph Aiello. "But it provides the baseline we need to be able to move forward with actions to get the MBTA back on track."

The FMCB's report noted that the agency is making progress on its winter resiliency program to keep service running in extreme weather. The board's report also highlighted MBTA's agreement with its operator Keolis Commuter Services to improve service along the agency's commuter-rail network.

Further, the board determined that MBTA is better managing available funds on capital projects and has taken steps to improve worker productivity and reduce absenteeism, MassDOT officials said in the blog.

In May, state legislators approved establishing the fiscal control board following Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker's panel report that identified several problems with MBTA's management and finances. The FMCB has met weekly since its first meeting July 21.