The Government Center subway station is scheduled to shut down for two years starting in the late summer or early fall of 2013 for an estimated $90 million project to renovate and rebuild part of the busy station at City Hall Plaza, MBTA officials said.
The station is used by more than 11,000 commuters on weekdays, and MBTA officials say they will provide buses to alleviate the inconvenience while the station is closed.
“We certainly don’t take station closures lightly,” said state transportation Secretary Richard Davey. “We know it’s not ideal. Government Center is obviously one of our key stations. But we thought it was in the best interest of our customers.”
Trains will still run through, but they will not stop at the station, which is a transfer point for the Green and Blue lines. A special bus route will stop at Government Center, Haymarket, and State stations. Bowdoin Station, normally closed on weekends and after 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, will be kept open on a trial basis on weekends, and will stay open later on weekdays.
The overhaul, the first significant modernization to the Government Center Station in 50 years, will bring it into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and make myriad other improvements. The most dramatic change will be a tall, glass-lined station entrance, or “headhouse,” emerging from City Hall Plaza.
Davey said that the T has kept stations open through similar projects. But in several cases, completion took significantly longer than expected – at times by several years – in part because crews had to work around commuters.
The T considered keeping Government Center Station open, but projected that would cost an additional $16 million, would take an extra 15 months to complete, and would include at least 32 weekend diversions along with frequent changes to boarding areas and accessible routes.
Last year, the T closed Science Park and Lechmere stations for renovations, including accessibility improvements. The projects were completed within the six months officials promised.
Nonetheless, news of the planned shutdown at Government Center was not well-received. Some riders worried the station could be closed for longer than planned.
“I doubt they’ll finish this on time,” said Carly DeLine, 24, of Brookline, who rides the Green Line’s B branch to the station next to her office.
To get to the law firm he works at, Philip Lapatin, 63, of Marblehead, rides the Blue Line to Government Center, switches to the Green Line, exits the subway at Arlington Station and walks a few blocks to his office.
He called the closure a “major inconvenience.”
“I try to walk when I can when the weather is nice, but when it gets really cold or humid, I’d rather take the train,” said Lapatin, as he waited inside Government Center Station to board a train on his way home Friday afternoon.
Maria Olivera worries the station closure could put her out of work.
For three years, she has run a small stand inside Government Center Station selling shirts, hats, bags, and other items, many of which are Boston-themed. She said she learned about the planned closure last month, but does not yet know if she will be able to set up shop in another station or elsewhere.
The 55-year-old lives in Quincy, and the stand is her only source of income. She said she sends some of the money she makes to her 9-year-old granddaughter and 82-year-old mother who live in Venezuela.
“When you depend on something like this, you really worry,” she said. “The economy is very bad, and you never know what you’re going to have.”
The station probably will close in September 2013 and is scheduled to reopen 24 months later, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. The project is expected to wrap up in the second quarter of 2016. The T expects federal funding to cover about 80 percent of the cost.
The station is the 13th busiest in the MBTA system and the third oldest, according to the T. On average, 11,315 people enter Government Center Station on weekdays.
“Notwithstanding the inconvenience of shutting down the station, I think it’s a huge win for all of our customers,” said Davey.
Work will include: renovating Green Line and Blue Line platforms; overhauling the electrical system; installing new elevators, escalators, LED signs, improved lighting, and an expanded fare collection area, and reconstructing some of the surrounding parts of Cambridge Street and City Hall Plaza, officials said.
“We’re taking what looks like an old, brick bunker, and not only making it a more aesthetically pleasing structure, but also making it more accessible for all of our customers,” Davey said.
Boston Transportation Department commissioner Thomas Tinlin said the city is also working with the T to notify commuters, residents, and businesses about the plan and to provide alternatives to commuters affected by the closure.