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MBTA Salem station parking lot to close as construction teams break ground on $37 million transportation hub

Posted by Terri Ogan  June 20, 2013 08:53 AM

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MBTA station design photos.jpg

The MBTA Salem train station parking lot is slated to close for several months as the station undergoes a massive renovation project.

Starting on Saturday July 20, commuters, tourists and residents will have to resort to alternative parking methods when using the train, which include lots at the North Beverly train station, Montserrat station, Swampscott station, Lynn garage and the Museum Place parking garage.

In addition, the city of Salem is working to pave the Universal Steel lot on Bridge Street, which will accommodate 120 vehicles, free of charge.

MBTA officials announced the lot closing Wednesday night at the city's sixth and final public meeting before construction teams break ground on the $37 million train station project.

"It's a disruption," said state Rep. John Keenan. "We have a lot of projects going on in Salem right now and I always try to tell people that there are going to be disruptions during the process, but when it's all said and done, I think we're all going to be a lot happier that we have a brand new parking facility here in Salem that's not just a parking garage, but a transportation center for the city."

Architects from Fennick McCredie Architecture presented the 90 percent design update of the new station at Wednesday night's meeting.

The new transportation hub will include a five-level parking garage with 690 spaces, a full-height train platform, a new roadway circulation, an enclosed waiting area, and a 270-foot linear "kiss and ride" parking area.

In order to create a more pedestrian and bike-friendly station, design teams have also included bike lanes on both sides of all roadways at the station, new bike cages, two re-paved pedestrian walkways, six sheltered waiting areas, four uncovered bench areas, as well as a new pedestrian bridge, which commuters and residents will enter from Bridge Street.

Although most residents applauded the design of the new station, some were concerned about the lack of pedestrian access to and from the station.

"What happens if we have an emergency on the train, and we have to evacuate people quickly?" said Jane Arlander, a member of Salem's Pedestrian Committee. "There are other ways that they might be able to put in a secondary access. It would not be some expensive, elaborate thing, but it would be a very good fix to a situation that down the line could be extremely dangerous."

George Doherty, the MBTA project manager, said that he has been working with the Pedestrian Committee for two years regarding access to and from the station. Due to the physical location of the site, constructing a secondary pedestrian access location would be impossible.

"There are other routes, but the commuters like to take the shortest route, which is a path that goes through other people's property, so the T cannot get involved with that," Doherty said. "We'll work with the city depending on what they can do."

Doherty added that the city proposed a secondary access route in a recent pedestrian and bike study, but it poses a problem. The route goes through an area where there are currently train tracks, which the MBTA cannot remove because of contracts with supplying businesses with product.

The station project manager said that part of the Bridge Street construction project will widen the entrance and exit of the pedestrian bridge, therefore rectifying the situation as much as possible.

In order to gain feedback from residents after construction starts, the city and project design team will hold another public meeting in either September or October.

The new train station and transportation center is slated to open in October 2014.

Terri Ogan can be reached at oganglobe@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter.

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