SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 16, 2013

A long week, walk

MBTA promises improvements to winding path at train station

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — Normally, it takes Haya Masood only a few minutes to walk to the train station from her apartment just down the street.

This week, her walk was twice as long.

“Now it takes an extra 10 minutes,” the 32-year-old Salem woman said while negotiating a zig-zag path down ramps and around barriers that the MBTA set up at the start of its 14-month reconstruction of the commuter rail station.

It took Masood so long Tuesday morning that she missed her train.

It has been that kind of week for commuters at a station that has been closed to everything except buses, handicapped drivers and pedestrians.

As the train station project gets underway, the city’s “Building Salem” office has fielded a number of questions and concerns.

A resident on Raymond Road complained of the lack of a shelter or a place to sit at the bus drop-off area.

“I wonder why something wasn’t provided before demolition started?” the woman wrote in an email that City Councilor Joe O’Keefe forwarded to the Building Salem office. “I would like to have shelter and seating provided. Twelve-plus months under these (conditions) are not acceptable.”

A Beverly woman said the new ramp system and walkway into the station from Bridge Street was so long that she stopped to help an elderly woman struggling to get to the train.

“She was barely able to make it (to the station) after 25 minutes of walking,” said Mary Ellen Miller, 52, of Beverly.

In addition, she complained the signs were confusing.

“I consider myself an intelligent woman, and I was lost,” Miller said.

Last Friday, a disabled man also had trouble negotiating his way through the site and had to seek out help, according to the police log.

The MBTA has heard the complaints and is responding.

It has repaired a new stairway from Bridge Street that will make the walk shorter; it is making “good progress” on getting shelters and benches for the bus area; and it has pledged to improve directional signs in the confusing walking areas, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

The T also plans to build an overhead shelter with lighting over the main pedestrian walkway, a long, paved path that runs along seldom-used tracks to the station.

Although some commuters are complaining, not everyone is.

“The North Salem people are actually very happy,” said Beth Debski, the Building Salem coordinator.

The source of their pleasure is a new paved and lighted walking path past HMA Car Care and along a section of the North River strewn with rusting marine construction equipment.

But for many commuters, this has been a week of huffing and puffing through a veritable obstacle course necessitated by a $37 million renovation that will produce a new station and garage in October 2014.

Before boarding a train Tuesday morning, a balding man mopped his brow as he passed a sign high on a post: “Welcome to commuter rail; Have an enjoyable ride.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.