Will the MBTA Garage Look Good or Be Comfortable?

Preliminary designs on $31 million garage offer tough choices, while Mayor and Legislators lobby for more funds to add fifth level.

About 98 percent of the funding for the new Salem Intermodial Station and Garage is committed to building the four-story garage, restructuring the site for buses, cars, bikes and pedestrians and raising the station platform.

But the MBTA wants to know if Salem residents want to spend the other 2 percent of the $31 million (about $650,000) allocated to the project on passenger comforts or beautification of the concrete garage at Bridge and Washington streets.

The 50 to 60 people who gathered Monday night at the appeared to be evenly divided between comfort and beauty for the second busiest MBTA station. A few who attended refused to accept that only 2 percent could be spent on adding brick to the concrete, heating the waiting room or installing canopies against the stiff winds of the North River.

Dorothy Hayes voiced the complaint of about half the speakers, saying “I am disappointed in the design. I think we could do better.”

Jim Carey, apologizing to Hayes, said he wanted the money spent on passenger comforts.

MBTA project manager George Doherty and Jonathan McCredie, an architect with the Boston firm of Fennick McCredie, outlined several options designed to enlist where Salem residents placed their priorities for the station.

One option balanced passenger comfort and aesthetics with an enclosed, unheated 1,700-square-foot waiting room with minimal canopies to protect the passengers from the weather. The concrete garage in this option would have some brick facade, some concrete coloring and other design features to make the structure, which Jim Treadwell called “massive,” visually more

In another option that emphasized more passenger comforts, the brick facades and concrete coloring were jettisoned in favor of canopies over the train platform and along the pedestrian walkways.

Few seemed to like a third option that would incorporate more maritime features – faux ship masts – instead of passenger comforts.

Some speakers argued that the garage should emphasize pedestrians and buses over automobiles. Others said cars are essential.

Mayor Kimberley Driscoll said she was “shocked” that more speakers were not advocating that the garage be enlarged to include a fifth level, which would increase the number of parking spaces from 555 to 710.

“I get calls all the time from people complaining that there is not enough parking in Salem,” Driscoll said. She noted that several parking spaces on Washington Street will soon go away when that street is expanded.

The mayor, state Sen. Fred Berry and Rep. John Keenan have been working for more funding to build the taller garage.

Project Wants $5 million More 

Doherty said the project has requested an additional $5 million to build the fifth level and add some additional amenities, including canopies and restoring the old signal tower. He said he expects to hear a decision on the additional funding next month, before the next planned public meeting on the project scheduled for June 12.

One amenity that will not be included is public restrooms for passengers. Restrooms for employees will be provided, and passengers may request permission to use those facilities, Doherty said.

To add public restrooms would eliminate the enclosed waiting room.

Some speakers asked why the city parking lot on Bridge Street was not included in the site development. The mayor explained that there is a freight railroad right of way between the gravel city lot and the new station, which would  “take an act of Congress, literally,” to remove.

She said the city would like to develop the lot into a mixed-use project that would compliment the MBTA station.

George Atkins, who heads the Salem Partnership, urged the MBTA to move the station design along as quickly as possible. He noted that the partnership has been advocating the new station since 1995.

The current timetable is to begin construction of the center in about a year and open it in September of 2014.

To add your comments on the station, send them by email to Doherty at gdoherty@mbta.com.



Chris April 10, 2012 at 12:01 PM
"She said the city would like to develop the lot into a mixed-use project that would compliment the MBTA station." The Mayor's main concern is parking spaces, but she's going to eliminate parking spaces in the city lot, and do what with that space?
bobhc2 April 10, 2012 at 01:18 PM
It is a cookie cutter garage it looks just like the one at wonderland literally not much difference. If they added another floor they may have to change the structure and start over to some extent. What is the Washington street project I haven't had time to read up on that?
christine April 10, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Perhaps no one from Salem is dumb enough to want 155 more cars trying to exit the train station and onto our city streets which are already congested with traffic. Why would we want another parking level to make people from out of town happy. The Mayor said she gets calls all the time saying there is not enough parking in Salem. This sounds like most calls are from people out of Salem! How many parking spaces are there now? How many more cars will there be with a 4 story garage? Maybe we should have only 3 stories just so we can handle the added traffic!
Chris April 10, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I was wondering the same thing, I've never heard mention of a Washington street project. Are they eliminating parking meter spaces and making it two lanes in each direction all the way from Derby St to Bridge st? I don't see how else they could 'expand' the street.
Jack Carver April 10, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Stop wasting our tax dollars, Move the station back where it was like we where promised in the 1990's. Plenty of parking along Canal Street and Jefferson Ave
Drew Meger April 10, 2012 at 03:48 PM
It took 20 minutes of circling to find a spot to park so I could run in to Passage to India to pick up our takeout order. I can't imagine how long it would take if all the parking on Washington went away - probably long enough that I wouldn't order from Passage anymore, delicious naan or no.
Jared Robinson April 10, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I'd rather have some protection from the wind and weather than some brick facades as for Driscoll asking for MORE parking at the lot, I think 550 spots is plenty if she expects people to park there to come 'shop' in Salem... but what are they shopping for downtown? Witch related T-shirts? I'm generalizing of course, as I can make a day shopping downtown at a variety of places, but the fact that there's not a single shop in the mall that I ever go to still bothers me. There always seems to be places to park downtown... but some people won't park at certain places for a variety of reasons (laziness being the biggest reason) Riley Plaza - people are afraid of their cars getting broken into by the ever-present homeless population milling about that area MBTA lot - too far to walk for most people. Also, not well guarded (my car was broken into there a few months ago) Church Street Lot - I tend to find spots here in the long term parking area. Mall and South Harbor Garage - Dunno why people avoid these garages... price? Congress Street Lot - people too afraid to park in the point?
Jared Robinson April 10, 2012 at 04:47 PM
they were going to put it BACK in the old area? I guess with the police station right now, it'd be safer, but with Lifebridge being right there, I'd expect the whole place to smell like a urinal...
Jared Robinson April 10, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Washington Street needs more '15 minute' parking spots near the restaurants.
thwarted April 10, 2012 at 06:38 PM
We NEED an enclosed, heated waiting area, especially if the MBTA continues to cut service & not maintain its trains properly. This year wasn't bad, but last year (blizzards, trains an hour or more late) was awful.
Chris April 10, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Looking at the plans, I hadn't realized they were adding a new traffic signal to Bridge Street at the entrance to the train station, that sucks. Also, the plans say construction starts Spring/Summer 2013 and the garage/station opens Fall 2014. Firstly, does that mean the actual train station is going to be closed for a period of time? Secondly, where the heck is everyone going to park for those 18 months? I guess if the station is closed then parking won't be an issue during construction...
Dungidog April 10, 2012 at 07:33 PM
The garage design is not going to add anything to the architure Salem has. It looks like a monolith without warmth or appeal. Ir needs to be redesigned to fit into Salem. The interior should have an area for food/beverages and a heated indoor waiting area. The outside should have heated, covered areas to help protect you for them elements. A garage is needed ,but not the structure proposed.
Jared Robinson April 10, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Good question. I figured there'd be no place to park and trains would still run. I walk, so I don't care about parking in the long run. I just hope I don't have to drive to Beverly/Swampscott (NO parking there) or Lynn (I'd just get a subway pass and go to Wonderland instead...)
Erin Cyr April 10, 2012 at 10:21 PM
As for beautification, why couldn't they have sponsored areas where upkeep and plantings (and whatever else is needed) is paid for by a local business like they do with traffic islands? If I took the train everyday and saw that (for example) Salem Cycle kept a little area nice with plants, flowers, and a recycling bin I would definitely think of them first when I needed to buy my son a new bike. Corporate sponsorship could really be a win/win situation.
EL April 11, 2012 at 12:29 AM
I agree with Erin. Use the extra money for canopies and comfort. Use corporate sponsors for grounds beautification. Hold an arts contest and have a local artisan paint a Salem- centric mural set on the garage.
john April 11, 2012 at 02:50 AM
The mayors goal is to make it so expensive to park in Salem that the city will have a windfall of meter income.Meters at Steves market? Is there a better way of driving them out of buisness? We reserve street parking for Holyoke even though they have a parking garage? The parking garage needs a dedicated area for the courts with a bridgewalk to the courthouse. Maybe the mayor should stop all the illegally parked cars behind city hall and behind the Harrisons where cars on parked on walkways and not in spaces without getting ticketed. The mayor has a private driveway in the middle of downtown when she should not even have a city car.
Matt Buchanan April 11, 2012 at 03:25 AM
A covered waiting area is very important. Anyone who has sat on one of those benches for more than 10 minutes in the winter knows how crucial this is. The wind there is much worse than you think it is. I always think that making a place aesthetically pleasing is important, but if the choice comes down to a covered waiting area or a nice looking facade, I need to vote for the waiting area.
chester suchecki April 11, 2012 at 11:48 PM
the people that attend these meetings for the most part dont have a clue as to what they are looking at viewing a blueprint never mind construction practices or materials. some want a canopy , some want flowers, some want coffee and muffins, more parking,more bicycle parking how about stalls for horses too. where are the city engineer and building inspector in all of this rhetoric? most people are tired of go nowhere meetings that the mbta says well we have to cut this or that out because we cant afford it. BUILD SOON BEFORETHERE IS NO MONEY LEFT!!!!! sssshhhhheeeeessssshhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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