, Salem, MA

August 28, 2013

Sept. start likely for construction of parking lot

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — The 120 free parking spaces the city has planned for 297 Bridge St. are still weeks away.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues its work at the former Universal Steel property, with tentative plans to finish and turn the site over to the city by Sept. 9.

Once that happens, construction of a municipal parking lot on the 1.2 acre property can begin.

Parking lots at Salem’s MBTA station closed last month while a new train station and parking garage are being built — an expected 14-month project. The Universal Steel site parking lot was originally planned to alleviate the city’s parking squeeze during construction at the MBTA station.

An EPA spokesperson said decontamination of the site has taken longer than expected because of weather delays through the winter and spring.

EPA crews have been excavating and removing soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl, known as PCB, at the site for more than six months. More than 8,000 tons of soil have been removed from the property, said Emily Zimmerman, public affairs specialist and community involvement coordinator for the EPA.

With excavation finished, crews are filling the site in with new soil and working on an “infiltration basin,” a drainage layer underneath the eventual parking lot, Zimmerman said.

Planning for this project has been a collaboration between federal, state and city agencies, she said.

“It’s been a huge team effort, across the board,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve all played different roles along the way to get this completed ... We’re getting to the final step.”

The former Universal Steel and Trading Co. building, which had been vacant for more than a decade, was demolished in December. The company ran a scrap metal and recycling plant that, among other items, handled fuel storage tanks and transformers. The city acquired the property in a tax title foreclosure.

The MBTA’s $37 million upgrade of Salem’s train station, including construction of a 700-space parking garage, is slated to be complete by the fall of 2014.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.