By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — The city has opened a satellite parking lot on Commercial Street to compensate for the loss of parking spaces while work is under way at the MBTA commuter rail station.
Earlier this month, the MBTA closed 225 parking spaces at the Salem station to begin archaeological fieldwork that is part of required environmental permitting for construction of a new garage.
An additional parking lot on city-owned land on Commercial Street opened in mid-November. The lot has roughly 70 spaces and is free to use, City Engineer David Knowlton said.
City workers paved over a curb to allow cars to park on the grass. The lot, near the city’s dog park, is a short walk to the train station.
“It’s very full; a lot of people are parking there,” Knowlton said. “We’re looking at every potential for additional parking and also improved pedestrian access.”
The MBTA has said the closure of 225 parking spaces is temporary — six to eight weeks. Work on the MBTA’s station upgrade project, including construction of a 715-space garage, is scheduled to begin in the spring. The Congress Street lot will remain open as the new garage is built, Knowlton said.
A second parking lot will be created at the United Steel property on Bridge Street. Demolition is happening now at the site, and a parking lot should open by the spring, Knowlton said.
The city is also looking into improving the lighting and walking path from the Commercial Street lot to the train station. Even before the parking lot opened, the area was frequented by people walking from North Salem to catch the train, Knowlton said.
There are 460 parking spaces at the Salem train station — 340 on the MBTA’s section of the lot and 120 in a smaller city-owned section.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.