Commuters Rally Behind New T Terminal Design
Most like the new, taller parking garage and bus and train terminal but want a heated waiting room.
The latest design was described by several speakers as "a vast improvement." And, the crowd gave Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, state Sen. Fred Berry, D-Peabody, and State Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, a round of applause for securing an additional $5 million in state funding for the parking garage and terminal building.
The extra money added a fifth floor and more than 150 more parking spaces. It also added more brick to the building, a canopy for bus riders, bathrooms and a restored historic roundhouse building.
But it did not buy heating and air conditioning for the enclosed waiting room off the train platform. And that, according to Salem Councilor-at-Large Tom Furey, is "not an option." He said a comfortable waiting room is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
Ward 7 Councilor Joseph O'Keefe agreed, as did most speakers, saying the passengers must be given a comfortable place out of the path of the wind across the North River.
And Pamela Jendrysik, who drives her husband to the train station early each morning, said the plan for the kiss-and-ride lane will not work without a heated waiting room because the passengers will stay in the car, not for a long, passionate kiss, but to stay warm until the train arrives.
"Then you will have a clogged kiss-and-ride lane," Jendrysik said.
A series of large Salem employers backed the new plan over previous designs.
David King, a senior executive with North Shore Medical Center said the hospital gives its "unequivocal support." The new terminal will "turn Salem from being a transportation outpost to a transportation hub," he said.
Dr. Stanley Cahill, executive vice president of Salem State University, said the university is excited about the new terminal and has been encouraging students and staff to ride the train. It provides a shuttle system between the terminal and campus during two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, he said.
Juli Lederhaus, manager of the Hawthorne Hotel, and Kate Fox with Destination Salem said the new terminal will be a huge boost to Salem. "It is a tremendous step forward," Fox said.
James Muse with Northshore Bank and the Salem Partnership called the latest design "a vast improvement," and he urged Salem residents to support the plans to keep the project on track.
The mayor asked those in attendance to support the MBTA's request for a waiver from a full Environmental Impact Review, which she said could delay the project by 12 to 18 months.
There will be a hearing on the environmental issues involved in the project at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the City Hall Annex. Comments about the environmental issues can be submitted to the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency until July 20.
Some speakers urged the design team, headed by architect Jonathan McCredie with Fennick McCredie to enhance the design even more. The new design adds much more faux brick to the facade of the concrete building on the parking deck closest to Washington Street. The section away from the downtown will have no facade on the concrete, which prompted some critics to compare it to the Wonderland T station.
Some critics, such as Jeff Bellin, urged McCredie to use elements like Greek columns to break up the boxiness of the structure.
Significant improvements were added to protect the passengers from the weather. Without agreeing to heat and cool the waiting room, McCredie and his design team have added a 1,900 square-foot overhang area next to the platform. The space under a corner of the parking garage will cost three car spaces, but would give 100 passengers a place to wait for the train out of the rain and wind.
The bathrooms will be placed near the garage manager's office for increased security, and cameras will be installed to feed video to the MBTA security office off site. MBTA Project Manager George Doherty said there have been no discussions with Salem Police on security issues for the new terminal.
Councilor O'Keefe urged Doherty to work with the local police force, who could respond faster if they had a direct video feed from the terminal.
Meg Toohey, who chairs the city's committee on improvements for pedestrians, said she is concerned about the safety of any woman in the parking garage after 8 p.m.
The MBTA design team will present the next round of design features on Sept. 24. The design is expected to be completed by December or January. And construction is scheduled to start next summer and be completed by the fall of 2014 — if the environmental studies do not delay the schedule.