SALEM — There will be a new parking garage at the Salem train station.
Gov. Deval Patrick announced funding yesterday for the city's long-held dream: a garage at the MBTA commuter rail depot, a move that Mayor Kim Driscoll called "phenomenal news."
Patrick said the state is operating with limited resources but "Salem is a perfect place to invest."
"We understand the congestion issues," Patrick said during a telephone interview yesterday afternoon. "This should bring some relief to downtown Salem and it should also bring some jobs, which we need."
Parking garage proponents have long argued that the limited size of the current lot forces commuters to park on busy Bridge Street or in the surrounding neighborhoods, and that a new garage would also provide spaces for tourists and employees of the new courthouse being built across the street.
"It's been talked about for more than two decades," Driscoll said yesterday shortly after receiving the news. "To have this project go forward is just huge. It's a big part of the city's future, for sure."
The governor said a combination of state, federal and local funds will be used to build the new garage and accompanying upgrades, which is estimated to cost between $40 million and $45 million — to be completed by the end of 2011.
The garage would be six stories and provide parking for 750 to 900 cars, according to plans the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority filed with the city. Under several options being considered, it would have a connecting "bridge" from the intersection of Bridge and Washington streets that would provide a second exit and entrance to the station.
"A lot of people have been worried about parking for (the courthouse)," said state Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem. "This helps Salem remain a legal and tourism hub for the North Shore for years to come."
The governor came to Beverly more than a year ago to announce plans for a 500-car garage at the commuter rail station on Rantoul Street, and the MBTA paid nearly $4 million in July to acquire land for the project.
Meanwhile, Salem — which is also one of the busiest stations in the area — was fighting hard for a garage it said it desperately needed, too.
"It's good for economic development," Sen. Fred Berry, D-Peabody, said yesterday, "and it's a new stimulus for the housing marking on the North Shore.
" One of the detractors for people taking the train is the fact they can't find parking, so garages in both Beverly and Salem is a complement to the whole North Shore."
Tomorrow, the MBTA will hold a public meeting in Salem to discuss a conceptual plan for a Salem garage, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Carlton School.
"This makes the meeting even more worthwhile, quite frankly," Keenan said following yesterday's announcement. "It makes it all the more real to actually have funding."
Patrick announced the state funding as part of the Massachusetts Recovery Plan. It will also be funded, in part, by $3.6 million from the Federal Transit Administration and $3 million from the Massachusetts Department of Capital Asset Management. The DCAM investment will allow 150 parking spaces to serve the new Essex County Courthouse complex.
The funding includes so-called "mitigation" funds tied to the Big Dig. The state is under a federal mandate to build 1,000 new parking spaces by 2011 to boost public transportation in Massachusetts.
"We'll get to count some of those spaces in Salem against the Big Dig," Patrick said.
Patrick praised Berry and Keenan for being "very strong and able advocates" for the project (Keenan put $15 million for the project into a transportation bond bill), and he lauded Congressman John Tierney for working to secure federal funds. The governor also had kind words for the mayor.
"I have such enormous confidence in the mayor and her vision for downtown Salem as a whole," said Patrick.
Tierney, a Salem Democrat, agreed, saying: "... In addition to the governor's commitment, it was and is the advocacy and persistence of Mayor Driscoll, the local legislative delegation and the leaders of the Salem business community who brought the importance of the project to the region's economy into sharp focus."
The governor said Salem's portion of the funding still has to be worked out.
"We'll have to take a look at that," said Driscoll. "Part of the (current) lot is owned by the city and it collects meter revenue. Beverly provided around a half million, and if that's the case, I think it's very doable."
The city had long eyed a garage at the MBTA commuter rail station, now more than ever with construction progressing on the new state courthouse on Federal Street. There are an estimated 470 spots currently at the commuter rail station.
With the redevelopment of the former jailhouse, the planned Senior Center, and the state's slated upgrades to Bridge Street, Driscoll called a commuter rail parking garage the "piece de resistance" on Bridge Street.
As part of the MBTA's plans, the train station would include a lobby area with room for a newsstand and small coffee shop, a new train platform, improved handicapped access, and new sidewalks with better access surrounding the site.
Coincidentally, the governor is scheduled to visit Salem this morning for the Massachusetts Workforce Board Association's quarterly meeting, to be held at the Salem Five Bank. He said there were no plans for any fanfare about the parking garage announcement while he's here.
Staff writer Tom Dalton contributed to this report.
Time: 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: Carlton School, 10 Skerry St., Salem
What: Public meeting on the design for the proposed MBTA parking garage at the Salem commuter rail station