BY TOM DALTON
---- — Construction of the city’s new commuter rail station, a $37 million facility with a parking garage and pedestrian bridge, will begin next month and is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 1, 2014, MBTA officials announced yesterday.
After years of planning, public meetings and design changes, the Salem project finally has a start date: July 19.
“We’re finally starting construction,” George Doherty, the T’s project manager, told about 60 residents last night at Bentley School.
Parking in both the MBTA and city sections of the commuter rail station, which have a combined 460 surface spaces, will be shut down at the end of the day on Friday, July 19. With the exception of handicapped spaces, there will be no commuter parking at the station for more than 14 months.
The city had hoped to have a satellite lot ready by the time construction started, but Mayor Kim Driscoll said that the hazardous waste cleanup of the Universal Steel lot across from the station is taking longer than expected. The 120-car lot may not be ready until mid-August, she said.
“We’re pushing,” she said. “Believe me, we’re pushing.”
When the Universal Steel lot opens, parking will be free.
MBTA officials are advising motorists to use T parking garages or lots in Beverly, Lynn and Swampscott.
City officials will be preparing information for motorists about available parking in Salem and also are working to find more parking areas.
Parking along Bridge Street, which has been used for years, will continue to be available during construction, although some spaces across from Universal Steel may be taken out of service for a few days due to truck traffic during the cleanup and paving.
Pedestrians and bike riders will be able to use the commuter rail station during construction, although access and bike-rack areas will change. Buses also will continue to pick up and drop off riders at the station.
The so-called “kiss and ride” drop-off area will be moved from the station to a stretch along Bridge Street near the intersection with Washington Street. It will be marked off with Jersey barriers and, at least when it opens, will have police details.
The taxi stand also will be relocated from the station to what is now a bus stop on Washington Street near the corner of Federal Street.
“Nothing is going to be the same as it is right now,” Doherty said. “We have to do the construction ... During construction, everybody is going to be inconvenienced.”
Members of a pedestrian committee who have worked on the station plans raised a number of concerns about safety and access issues during construction and once the project is completed.
“We have a great project, but we have a flaw in it,” said Jane Arlander, a pedestrian committee member. The chief problems, she said, were pedestrian access and the lack of secondary motor vehicle access, especially in the event of an emergency.
There will be one vehicle entrance and exit to the station on Bridge Street, just as there is now. However, MBTA officials said a new traffic signal at that entrance will improve traffic flow and safety.
The T is building a five-deck, brick and concrete garage with 690 spaces, elevators, an enclosed waiting room and two bike cages; a covered pedestrian bridge from Washington Street; and a “full-height” platform that will allow commuters to step directly onto the trains without going up stairs.
Granite blocks from the foundation of an old locomotive roundhouse that are buried underground at the site will be used along a pedestrian entrance way to the new station.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.