By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — State Rep. John Keenan was interrupted by a passing train as he spoke at yesterday’s groundbreaking for the new MBTA station and parking garage.
The drone of excavating equipment and clanging of train bells served as a fitting backdrop as city and state officials gathered for yesterday morning’s ceremony.
The MBTA is building a $44.5 million facility, including an updated station and five-story, 714-space parking garage. The depot’s parking lot was closed as construction started in mid-July.
At yesterday’s groundbreaking, MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott said the new facility will “absolutely” be finished and open in October 2014.
“There have been 20 years of stops and starts, but we’re finally here,” said state Sen. Joan Lovely, a former Salem city councilor.
Lovely credited the many residents who came to planning meetings about the project and gave feedback. “Without that input, we wouldn’t be where we are,” she said.
Keenan, who lives a stone’s throw from the station, urged residents to “bear with us” through the next year of construction. “It’s worthwhile, worth the wait,” he said.
The new station will include a bus platform, taxi stand and pick up/drop off area, and a pedestrian bridge from Bridge Street. Commuters also will see upgrades to seating, lighting, signage and landscaping.
The parking garage will include parking for electric vehicles, handicapped parking on each level, Zipcar parking, and motorcycle and bicycle parking.
“This is the culmination of many years of hard work,” Keenan said. “The best thing that happens in Salem is collaboration.”
“It’s a great project. I really feel awkward taking any of the credit (now that) I have retired, run away,” joked former state Sen. Fred Berry, who stepped down last year.
According to the T, the downtown Salem train station is the second-busiest in the MBTA’s commuter rail system, with 2,400 passengers per day.
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).
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.