Wearing a hard hat and a yellow reflective vest today, MBTA acting General Manager Jonathan Davis stood alongside construction workers at an eerie underground construction site on Foundry Street in South Boston, which in a few months will be a fully functioning training center meant to better prepare T workers and first responders for emergencies.
“I think this is a great example of our continued investment in the safety of our customers and the safety of our employees,” Davis said of the $8.8 million project.
Davis was there to tour the site along with Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan, who said once the training center opens in the spring, it will be used on a daily basis – a far cry from the frequency of emergency training now.
“Currently we can not perform drills and exercises without shutting down the MBTA for a portion of time,” MacMillan said, adding that typically happens on Sunday mornings, a time considered to be less inconvenient for T customers.
“This will allow us to conduct drills and exercises throughout the week with all first responders,” MacMillan said.
MBTA Transit Police, Boston Fire, Boston EMS, Somerville Police, Cambridge Police and Cambridge Fire departments will all use the facility, MacMillan said.
“All of the first responders who may come to an event in our subway system will be using this facility to train in the environment that they respond to,” MacMillan said.
Some of the drills that will be undertaken include fires, derailments and other situations where passengers would have to be evacuated, such as bio-terror.
“We would expect that not to happen, but we are in the transportation business, so occasionally we do have events that take place that require us to respond to those particular circumstances,” Davis said.
“We want to make sure our employees and the first responders are well-trained to make sure that our customers remain safe and our employees remain safe”
This morning, a crane hefted a retired Blue Line car into the dark tunnel, which is currently a long stretch of dust and construction equipment.
The tunnel is about 100 years old, Davis said, and went out of use around 1920.
“It had been, really, not used since the 1920s, and we felt that it would be a great opportunity (for the MBTA),” Davis said.
MacMillan said more retired vehicles will be brought into the center to help replicate emergency situations for trainees.
The multimillion-dollar project is funded by the Department of Homeland Security and 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, according to MBTA officials.
“I think its important to note that in spite of our financial difficulties we continue to invest in safety,” Davis said. “Safety is our number one priority.”