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The MBTA just eliminated one of its longest-lasting slow zones

This slow zone lasted longer than Healey’s been governor, longer than the Phil Eng’s run the T, longer than the Green Line Extension’s been fully open.

A southbound train crossed the Neponset River before slowing.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

For more than a year, it was one of the most reliable aspects of a Red Line trip from JFK/UMass to North Quincy Station. Initially, the train would run as fast as it could, charging south through Dorchester at 40 miles per hour, before dipping down to about 25 miles per hour as it rounded a corner near the Morrissey Boulevard-Interstate 93 exchange, and headed toward the Neponset River bridge.

And then, in a performance that played out dozens of times of day, it lost speed. Suddenly, inevitably, terribly.

Riders would lurch forward as the train crept at around 10 miles per hour coming off the bridge. Some would laugh, others glanced up. Most showed no response. This was, after all, their daily commute, and the slow zone — that went by the number 463167 within the MBTA — was an immutable part of their life.


Until now.

First identified by work crews before Labor Day in 2022, data show, it was “being removed” as of Wednesday morning, T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said, but not before adding hours to riders’ commutes over the course of nearly 14 months.

A northbound train adjacent Commander Shea Boulevard.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Here is its story.

Restriction 463167 was initiated on Sept. 2, 2022, and to keep riders safe, the T limited train speed to 10 miles per hour for a quarter-mile, according to daily speed restriction data from the MBTA.

On a recent afternoon ride, during the restriction’s final days, Travis Downer, 40, tightly clutched a handrail as his train crossed the Neponset. He rides the Red Line between JFK/UMass and Quincy Center nearly every day; by then, he knew when to brace for speed changes.

He laughed as the train ground to 10 miles per hour.

“See?” he asked.

After the slow zone was instituted, the T suspended service on that stretch of tracks for more than a dozen weekends and around 30 evenings for repair and infrastructure work, with no impact on the slow zone, a Boston Globe review of data shows. Even after trains began whizzing up and down the Ashmont Branch this week, following a two-week shutdown of those rails, this Quincy-bound slow zone persisted.


Lisa Battiston, another T spokesperson, did not answer questions about the specific causes behind the restriction. Slow zone reports listed the cause as a “RAIL CONDITION” but did not provide more specific details. But she said the tracks between the Neponset bridge and North Quincy Station, like much of the T’s infrastructure, were “aging and in need of repair or replacement.”

She added that restrictions on the T’s ability to access rails, imposed by the Federal Transit Administration after a slew of incidents involving rider and worker safety, have made it difficult for the agency to chart a clear timeline for lifting speed restrictions.

“However, we have been making good progress, and we will continue to be strategic and work as quickly as possible to lift more restrictions,” Battiston wrote in an email. “The MBTA will always prioritize safety and that’s why some restrictions must stay in place until the necessary corrective track maintenance actions have been taken.”

A southbound train adjacent Commander Shea Boulevard.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The restriction had been around longer than general manager Phillip Eng and Governor Maura Healey have been in charge of the T. It was there when Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey grilled T officials last year at a hearing over safety concerns raised by the FTA. It had frustrated riders since before the troubled Green Line extension to Medford opened, and before the Orange Line rolled back to life after a monthlong closure.


As the train came off the bridge, the scene outside the window would shift from motion-blurred, pseudo-Impressionist landscape, to a starkly crisp image. The rhythmic chugga-chugga of the train’s wheels lost tempo. The howls of rushing wind and shrieks of metal against metal fell to whispers, barely louder than the engine’s hum.

It was, to some, a hallmark of the ride, signaling their arrival in Quincy.

Though she only takes the Red Line once or twice a week, Quincy resident Sarah O’Donovan was well familiar with restriction 463167. She said it felt like the train was coming to a halt when it exited the bridge.

O’Donovan called that stretch of southbound rail “probably the worst part of the train.”

“Especially pulling into North Quincy Station, we’re like snailing,” O’Donovan said, laughing softly, with a tinge of resignation. “Just pick up the pace.”

All told, the journey to North Quincy from JFK/UMass covers about 3.5 miles of track. On O’Donovan’s ride, nearly 4 of the trip’s 9 total minutes were spent crawling from the bridge to the platform at North Quincy Station. Out the windows, northbound trains whizzed by at more than double the southbound speed.

Mayor Thomas Koch of Quincy said he hears often from riders and constituents about slow zones on the Red Line, but he was not familiar with this particular restriction.


“If it’s the base of the Neponset bridge to North Quincy Station, that’s not very far,” Koch, who is also a member of the T’s oversight board, said recently.

Koch said he understands riders’ frustration, and he argued the agency is battling decades of underfunding and neglect. He said Eng, who has led the agency since April, seems to be doing “an exceptional job.”

“I do believe that the new general manager and his team have a real good handle on things,” said Koch. Still, “we’re months away from really turning the corner in my view.”

Months indeed, but hopefully fewer than 14 of them.

Read more coverage of the MBTA.

Daniel Kool can be reached at Follow him @dekool01.