MBTA tries watery solution to screeching; seems to work

Transportation officials appear to have found a temporary way to stop the screeching of trolley wheels at Ashmont Station.

Neighbors of the station have complained to MBTA officials of high-pitched squealing caused by 70-year-old Mattapan Line trolleys taking a sharp turnaround. The friction of steel wheels hitting steel rail, along with the sharp turn – which officials admit is the result of a design flaw – produce the sound.

Local resident Vic Campbell told the Reporter that water jets were installed on the tracks on Friday.
“Not a single sound came out of the wheels,” he said.

An MBTA spokeswoman confirmed the installation and acknowledged it had been successful in reducing the noise.

“Misters work like a large shower head adjacent to the rail,” said Lydia Rivera, the spokeswoman. “When the water source is activated, it turns on and wets the rail.”

Rivera said the MBTA will still be installing “noise-attenuating” blankets as a sound barrier once the order arrives in July.

At a community meeting earlier this month, neighbors of Ashmont Station barraged MBTA officials with complaints about the noise, saying they were hearing it early in the morning and late at night. Some demanded the closure of the Mattapan Line, which MBTA officials balked at, but said they would consider busing riders from Ashmont to Mattapan Station.

MBTA officials have also raised other options to fix the problem, including a redesign of the cars or the turn, which would be expensive since the MBTA would have to acquire private property next to the station. But currently they plan on testing out the blankets and measuring whether the decibel level goes down because of them.

The MBTA’s new general manager, Rich Davey, has pledged to meet with residents monthly, if needed, until the problem is resolved. Residents say they’ve been waiting since 2008 for MBTA to fix the problem.

MBTA officials recently had been attempting to grease the wheels, but acknowledged that it wasn’t enough.