The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority intends to release a request for proposals on Friday for a two-year, $3 million study to identify commuter rail needs and improvements.

It will fund the study out of its capital budget.

Repeated breakdowns during the winter of 2014-15 triggered scrutiny of MBTA commuter rail operations.

The authority, a state-run agency that operates mass transit in Greater Boston, has such an exercise under way for bus, subway, and ferry, called Focus40.

The MBTA expects to award the contract in September 2017 with the study anticipated to begin several weeks later.

MBTA commuter rail is one of the largest systems of its of its kind in the nation, operating 14 lines that serve 50 cities and towns with a fleet of 82 locomotives and 421 coaches.

The Massachusetts Office of Transportation Planning will lead the study, supported by MBTA Railroad Operations. The MBTA is a MassDOT unit.

Commuter rail operations have been under scrutiny since the winter of 2014-15, after widespread breakdowns occurred when metropolitan Boston received a record 110 inches of snow.

The series of transit fiascoes prompted Gov. Charlie Baker and the state legislature to create an MBTA fiscal oversight board.

According to state transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, the MBTA and the oversight board will examine housing, real estate and other factors that affect commuter rail demand.

Other topics will include system upgrades including electrification of some network sections; an “urban rail” service model inside Route 128; capital investment plan infrastructure investments; the possible South Station expansion project; a north-south rail link feasibility reassessment; and new stations.

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Paul Burton

Paul Burton

Paul Burton is the Northeast Regional Editor for The Bond Buyer and the author of the book "Tales from the Newsrooms." He is a sought-after public speaker and has appeared on radio and TV shows, including former CBS News White House correspondent Sharyl Attkisson’s public-affairs program, “Full Measure.”