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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis June 28, 2013
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MBTA Opens Underground Emergency Training Center

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) opened its new Emergency Training Center in ceremonies June 12. John Pistole, administrator, Transportation Security Administration, joined ­Massachusetts DOT Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Richard A. Davey, MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan, and MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott for the event.

MBTA constructed the state-of-the-art facility in former streetcar tunnels, funded with a $10 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. It provides advanced training, exercise, and simulation capabilities in a ­realistic tunnel environment.

“The opening of this facility represents years of work in a true sense of ­partnership between our agencies and the Department of Homeland Security,” Davey said. “As we know all too well, ­saving lives in an emergency always comes back to training, and I am looking forward to seeing many brave first responders receive vital training here at our facility.”

Although plans for the center predate the April 15 bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the incident was on the mind of many speakers at the dedication. MBTA expects the facility to provide additional resources to its police and emergency workers.

The new center consists of multiple training areas, each dedicated to different public transit modes or response functions, including heavy rail, light rail, bus, power, evacuation, and both law enforcement and fire response. Full-size decommissioned bus and rail vehicles and a control room that can simulate advanced audio and visual effects add to the realism of the programs the facility will offer.

MBTA explained that the facility will enhance its ability to prepare for emergencies more realistically, frequently, and with fewer service or cost impacts. Through partnerships with the public transit system, agencies throughout the region and the country also will be able to use the training center.

The space now occupied by the Emergency Training Center began in 1917 as an underground streetcar station; it closed two years later after being made redundant. In the years since, the abandoned space has seen a variety of uses, including growing mushrooms, material storage, and testing station accessibility enhancements. In 2009, MBTA officials began exploring the ­feasibility of converting the space into a state-of-the-art training facility.

Participants in opening ceremonies for the MBTA Emergency Training Center, from left: MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott, MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey, MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole, and MBTA Deputy Transit Police Chief Lewis Best.

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