The line is designated Blue because for much of its length it uses the old Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn Railroad right-of-way along the seacoast in Revere and East Boston, and the tunnel to East Boston runs under the Atlantic Ocean. Boston's Blue Line was the first subway in the world to run underneath a section of the ocean.
Blue Line cars are unique among rapid transit vehicles in Boston in that they use both third rail and overhead pantograph current pickup. The line switches between the two at the Airport station where it transitions between running in a tunnel and running above ground. The overhead pantograph was implemented to avoid the third rail icing that frequently occurs in winter.
The Blue Line cars are also shorter than otherwise similar ones running on the Orange Line, as the Blue Line (known as the East Boston Tunnel before the MBTA was formed) was initially designed to carry streetcars. The subway portion of the line was retrofitted with raised station platforms and rapid transit cars in the 1920s, with the surface portion between East Boston and Revere (known pre-MBTA as the Revere Extension) added in the 1950s.
The 1998 romantic comedy Next Stop Wonderland features scenes from the Blue Line.
The Blue Line Modernization Project begun in the late 1990s includes renovating stations to increase the length of trains from four to six cars, make all stations wheelchair accessible, and improve appearance. Bowdoin Station is likely to be closed due to the difficulty of accommodating the longer 6-car trains around the loop which turns the trains around to head back to Wonderland. Platform lengthening of Bowdoin is unlikely to occur because of the station's layout. If platform length is increased to the west, expensive track re-organization must occur, and expanding to the east would make the station too close in proximity to Government Center Station. (Bowdoin is the western terminus, where inbound trains follow a tight loop to the outbound side.)
There is a proposal to extend the Blue Line northward to Lynn, Massachusetts. The land to extend the line was purchased during initial construction, but due to budgetary constraints Wonderland station was designated the northern terminus. Two potential extension routes have been identified. One proposed path would run through marshland alongside the existing Newburyport/Rockport commuter rail line, on rail lines formerly operated by the Boston and Maine Railroad. An alternative route would extend the line alongside Revere Beach Boulevard through Point of Pines and the Lynnway, along the remainder of the BRB&L right of way. Other alternatives include increased commuter rail or bus service, or connecting the Blue Line to a commuter rail stop near Wonderland via a short connector.
In 2005, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy estimated construction would begin in 2017. Authorization to bond for planning money for the project was included in an April 2008 state bond bill, and $25 million in federal earmarks have been obtained. A 2004 state bond bill authorized $246.5 million on the condition of finding 50% non-state matching funds (which presumably would come from the federal government). The Draft Environmental Impact Report is expected to be complete by the end of 2008.
In addition, the MBTA has committed to designing an extension of the line's southern end west to Charles/MGH, where it would connect with the Red Line. This was one of the mitigation measures the Commonwealth of Massachusetts agreed to as part of the Big Dig, originating from planning of the Boston Transportation Planning Review.
Finally, if the Blue Line is extended to the Charles/MGH station it will procede under Charles Street to Beacon Street. The line will run underneath Beacon Street to connect with Kenmore Station where it will terminate. A new station halfway between Charles/MGH and Kenmore will be built on the new Charles/Beacon Street extension of the MBTA Blue Line.
|Station||Time to Government Center||Opened||Transfers and notes|
|Wonderland||21 minutes||January 19, 1954||former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad station|
|Revere Beach||19 minutes||January 19, 1954||former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad station|
|Beachmont||17 minutes||January 19, 1954||former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad station|
|Suffolk Downs||15 minutes||April 21, 1952||former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad station|
|Orient Heights||13 minutes||January 5, 1952||former Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad station|
|Wood Island||11 minutes||January 5, 1952||Formerly Day Square, renamed Wood Island Park October 21, 1954, renamed Wood Island 1967|
|Airport||9 minutes||June 3, 2004||Old station opened January 5, 1952 and closed June 2, 2004|
|Maverick||7 minutes||April 18, 1924||Streetcar portal opened December 30, 1904|
|Aquarium||4 minutes||April 5, 1906||Formerly Atlantic, renamed February 13, 1967|
Had a transfer to the Atlantic Avenue Elevated
(outbound platform only)
|2 minutes||December 30, 1904||Orange Line|
Formerly Devonshire, renamed January 25, 1967
|Government Center||0 minutes||March 18, 1916||Green Line|
Formerly Scollay Square Under, renamed October 28, 1963
Court Street opened December 30, 1904 and closed March 17, 1916
|Bowdoin||2 minutes||March 18, 1916||Closed evenings and weekends|
The Blue Line is standard gauge heavy rail. Unlike the rest of the MBTA rapid transit system, equipment have a projected lifespan of 24 years as opposed to 35 because the line runs very close to the ocean and runs next to a major airport, resulting in prolonged exposure to corrosive substances. Its current fleet is the 0600 series, built 1978-1980 by Hawker Siddeley Canada Car and Foundry (now Bombardier Transportation) of Fort William, Ontario, Canada. They are 48 feet 10 inches (14.884 m) long and 9 feet 3 inches (2.819 m) wide, with two pairs of doors on each side, and a design maximum speed of 65mph (105 km/h). They are based on the PA3 model used by PATH in New Jersey. There are 70 Hawker cars, numbered 0600-0669. Most cars are scheduled to be retired soon because of severe corrosion due to the nature of the line. However, 12 cars will be retained until 2012.
The MBTA has ordered 94 new cars (47 pairs) with stainless steel bodies from Siemens Transportation Systems with dimensions identical to cars of the current fleet. The cars will be numbered in the 700 series. The cars are of a similar design to those built for the Tren Urbano system in San Juan, Puerto Rico, also designed by Siemens. Originally scheduled to be delivered beginning in January, 2004, the development of the trains has been beset with problems. The contract price of the cars is $174 million, with a total cost to the MBTA (including engineering and other related services) of $200 million. New cars arrived for testing in August 2007 at the Orient Heights carhouse and an unused express track between Wellington and Sullivan on the Orange Line. Each car must be tested and run for at least 500 miles before it is allowed to be in service. The first of the new cars began service on Wednesday, February 20, 2008. Cars will be delivered at a rate of 4 per month until summer 2009, when all 94 cars should be in service.