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Green Line shut down after smoke, smoldering cables

Smoldering cables caused hundreds of people to be evacuated from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Green Line at the Arlington Station, and halted services from Kenmore Station to Government Center Station Wednesday morning.

“Smoke [was] observed about 100 feet west of Arlington Station’s inbound platform,” said Joe Pesaturo, MBTA spokesman, in an email.

The Boston Fire department ordered the power to be shut off at 8:15 a.m, said Steve MacDonald, BFD spokesman. Response teams were sent out early on Wednesday to respond to the reports of smoke.

“We were called down to Arlington around 8 a.m,” MacDonald said. “They had an electric junction box adjacent to the track where they had the cable smoldering. The only way to put it out is to shut the power off and extinguish it.”

MacDonald said the track had to be cleared of T-riders in order for the power to be shut off.  MBTA personnel escorted more than 100 riders through the tunnels.

“They shut the power off and used a dry powder to extinguish the smoldering cable,” he said. “The T’s electricians had to isolate the cable that was causing the problem.”

Pesaturo said the cable will be replaced shortly.

“Once identified, the cable was disconnected from two points in the tunnel to isolate it,” he said. “All other cables were tested to ensure safety of remaining cables. The old cable will be replaced in the next few nights.”

The extreme temperature damaged the MBTA power system, causing the smoke, Pesaturo said.

“Extreme cold can cause high loads on the aging MBTA power system,” he said. “In this case, the bitter cold weakened an old cable which began to smolder and create smoke.”

The whole system had to be shut down to deal with the smoke, forcing officials to close major parts of the Green Line, Pesaturo said.

“Green Line service between Kenmore and Government Center [was] temporarily suspended,” he said. “Shuttle buses were dispatched.”

The MBTA, on its website, announced a shuttle-bus plan to deal with the incident.

“It is a major inconvenience for the morning commute,” MacDonald said. “But that’s the only way to put out smoldering wires.”

Pesaturo said the T resumed normal service at 10:53 a.m. The incident caused issues for many morning commuters.

Danielle Chaplick, 30, a program manager in Coolidge corner was frustrated with how the MBTA handled the situation.

“I knew at St. Mary’s Street that Kenmore would be the last stop,” she said. “I was annoyed that they didn’t tell me sooner or else I would have taken a cab instead of battling people on the street. I was late. It was so hard to get a cab because obviously everyone was trying to get one. People weren’t directing and I think the MBTA could have handled the situation a lot better.”

Cornell Dan, 38, a resident of Brookline, was also delayed by the shut down.

“It was just one of those days,” he said. “I was 25 minutes late to where I needed to be and it was a big inconvenience for me.”

Other commuters tried to make the best of the situation.

Evan Gallup, 22, a Brighton resident, didn’t bother with trying to catch a cab. “I had to walk from Blandford to Kenmore,” he said. “It was just mainly cold and not that much of an inconvenience for me. I got to where I was going on time.”

Pesaturo said this incident emphasized the need to update the MBTA system.

“This incident demonstrates the importance of re-investing in the MBTA’s aging infrastructure,” he said. “A plan needs to be approved to allow the MBTA to properly maintain the oldest subway in America.”

 Zoe Roos contributed reporting to this story.

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