BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — Although plans are close to being finalized for the $37 million MBTA station and parking garage, issues remain for many people who walk to the commuter rail station.
“The state’s failure to provide pedestrian access for North Salem and Mack Park residents is a major concern ...” the Salem Neighborhood Pedestrian Committee wrote in a March 9 letter to the MBTA, which will host a public meeting tomorrow night on the project at 6:30 p.m. at Carlton School.
The main focus of the MBTA project has been construction of a larger parking garage and a modern station. Current plans call for a garage with just under 700 parking spaces.
Although motorists may be the top priority, the Salem station, one of the busiest in the commuter rail system, is used by a large number of people who come by foot.
T officials “told me that 40 percent of the people who use the commuter rail station walk to it,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said.
Unanswered questions remain for riders who come through Leslie’s Retreat Park, which runs along the North River, according to the committee, which has members from more than a half-dozen neighborhood groups.
The T also has been asked about use of the unofficial pathway that runs next to the North Street overpass, leading from the HMA Car Care Systems parking lot to the back of the MBTA lot, and about adding a pedestrian crossing over the tracks to the Jefferson at Salem Station housing development.
State Rep. John Keenan, who attended a meeting with T officials last week, said the track crossing appears “unlikely” due to safety and other concerns raised by the T.
A pathway from the HMA property is a complicated project, Keenan said, that appears to be “out of the scope” of the MBTA work. The issue is currently being studied by the city, according to Mayor Kim Driscoll.
Other issues have been raised about pedestrian safety during construction when many motorists will be parking in a temporary lot across Bridge Street on the former Universal Steel property, which the city is converting into a parking lot.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.