By Bethany Bray STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — Plans for the MBTA’s new commuter rail station and parking garage in Salem are more than halfway complete, and locals have a chance to ask questions about the project at a public meeting today.
The MBTA is designing a 714-space garage as part of a $37 million upgrade to the station at the intersection of Washington and Bridge streets.
MBTA officials and Mayor Kim Driscoll will give an update on the project and answer questions at 6:30 p.m. at Carlton School.
Today’s meeting is one of many the MBTA has hosted about the project. Another will be held in February or March; meetings will also be held during construction, said George Doherty, MBTA project manager.
“(The meeting) is part of ongoing public engagement,” said Josh Robin, MBTA spokesperson. “It’s an important project for us and important for the community.”
The project is on track for construction to begin this spring and the new complex to open Oct. 1, 2014, Doherty said.
The MBTA has already begun archaeological fieldwork that is part of the required environmental permitting for the new garage. To do so, more than 200 parking spaces were temporarily closed on Nov. 5.
The MBTA is calling today’s meeting a “60 percent design update,” which means the plans for the project are more than halfway finished, Doherty said. The evening will begin with an update on the project, followed by questions from the audience.
Public feedback has been sought and considered throughout the project, he said. Designers have — and still could — make tweaks to the design based on public input.
“A lot of the development and changes we’ve made in the past have been made based on the public,” Doherty said.
The MBTA is planning to build a five-story parking garage to replace the current surface lot, which holds 344 cars.
The new station will have a “high-level” platform, which will allow riders to walk onto the trains without going up steps. It also will have a covered pedestrian walkway from Bridge Street, and commuters will see upgrades to seating, lighting, signage systems and landscaping.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
IF YOU GO What: Public meeting on Salem's MBTA station improvements and parking garage project When: Today, 6:30 p.m. Where: Carlton School, 10 Skerry St., Salem More information: For full details on the project, go to www.mbta.com (click on "about the MBTA," then "T projects" and scroll down to the Salem station link).