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Gov. Charlie Baker open to dissolving the MBTA

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Hours after an Orange Line train burst into flames with about 200 passengers on board, Gov. Charlie Baker said he’s open to exploring a dissolution of the MBTA.

Baker was responding to an inquiry on the GBH “Ask the Governor” radio program Thursday, where he was asked for his thoughts on a proposal from state Rep. William Straus, D-Mattapoisett, who said the T is no longer serving its purpose, and should be absorbed as a public transit division of MassDOT.

Straus, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, had first floated the idea at the transportation committee’s safety oversight hearing of the MBTA on Monday.

“There’s a lot of houha about the turnpike discussion that took place, which I think is what Straus referenced when he talked about this, and the Legislature sort of powered through that and implemented a reform,” Baker said, referring to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority that was abolished in 2010, and now leaves oversight to MassDOT’s highway division.

Baker said the next couple of years after that turnpike authority was eliminated “were pretty bumpy,” but “I think most people think that process and where we are today with respect to that issue is better than where we were before.”

Having the T function instead as a transit division, freeing it up to concentrate on operating subways, buses and the commuter rail, and leaving construction and capital projects to MassDOT, is worth looking into, Baker told the radio program.

“There’s a lot of complexity associated with that, but I think that’s a conversation worth having,” Baker said.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak told the Herald at a Thursday press conference detailing the chaotic aftermath of the Orange Line train fire that left passengers jumping out windows, and one woman diving into the Mystic River below the bridge, that he would also be open to the discussion.

“I think I will let the executive branch and the legislative branch sort that one out about what the optimal structure of the T is,” Poftak said. “Anything that those parties can do and other parties can do to help us make the MBTA safer, I would be open-minded about.”

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