Image courtesy of AECOM Transportation
After two years of design, construction is set to begin in the coming weeks on the $34 million Beverly Depot garage, according to MBTA officials.
Project manager George Doherty says that surveyors will be on site over the next couple of weeks, and Suffolk Construction of Boston will begin clearing the site on Rantoul Street - about a block-and-a-half from the Beverly commuter rail stop - and demolishing four currently standing buildings.
Doherty said the current commuter parking lot will close Nov. 5.
MBTA officials and architects with AECOM Transportation were at Beverly City Hall on Thursday night to present final design plans on the 500-space garage, and detail the construction timeline. Work is expected to take about a year to complete, and Doherty hopes to have cars in the garage by December 2013.
The design had been tweaked slightly from the last time officials presented it to include a canopy overhang at the main entrance. Plans for the four-story structure include nine accessible spaces, 72 compact spaces, reserved Zipcar parking, eight electric vehicle charging stations, bike storage, two elevators, access at the first level on Court Street and the main level on Rantoul Street, and a covered walkway leading to the train station.
"I'd like to thank everybody for their patience, and for their positive attitude and questions throughout the whole process," Mayor Bill Scanlon said. "It's been a long, hard slog...everybody has taken this whole thing seriously, thoughtfully and tried to do a good job with it."
Residents at the meeting, most of whom occupy the Depot Square Condominiums that directly abut the site, expressed very few concerns.
One possible issue could be parking. Neighbors like Dana Staples, who lives on Pleasant Street, are worried that commuter cars will begin flooding the surrounding neighborhoods when the current lot closes.
"When the parking lot closes you're going to get parking on at least Pleasant Street, I'm not sure about the others, is going to become suddenly overloaded," Staples said.
City Planner Tina Cassidy said she has been working address the problem before it happens, by encouraging commuters to use a currently under-utilized, off-street municipal lot on Cabot Street, and possibly adding or changing on-street parking restrictions in the surrounding area.
"My concern really is there isn't much time between now and November 5," Staples said. "If it's not enforced day one, and we have, god forbid, a snow storm November 8, it's going to be a disaster on Pleasant Street, probably Fayatte, probably Railroad Ave...it has to be enforced and in place, and it's only a few weeks away."
The other major discussion point of the evening revolved around a proposed MBTA bus stop at the garage. There is no bus stop currently at Beverly Depot, but officials hope to re-route a nearby line to stop directly in front of the main entrance on Rantoul Street.
Some residents fear that the bus stop will add to traffic woes that already exist on the road, and would rather see the bus stop closer to the train station rather than at the garage.
"The people are on the bus because they don't have cars, so why would you drop them in front of a parking garage when they have to walk half-a-block, or a whole block," said Clarissa Smith-McGraw.
But moving the stop too far from its current location, or taking it off the main thoroughfare on Rantoul and sending it down side streets, could have too much of an adverse effect on the rest of the bus line. Doherty said the MBTA will hold public meetings in Beverly before construction is finished to discuss changes to the bus line.
"When we do something like this, we have to look at how many buses we have," Doherty said. "We don't have additional buses to put on the route, so if it affects the dwell time, what would happen is, instead of the bus stopping, let's say it stops at a stop eight times a day, now it might only stop six times because the route is longer and it takes longer for the bus to make the loop. "
MBTA officials acknowledge that construction in general can be a burden on nearby residents, but feel that the project will not be too problematic. The only necessary road closure required during construction will come when workers install the pedestrian bridge. Doherty said that will take place on a Saturday morning, and Pleasant Street will be closed for one day at the most.
The project is being funded mostly by MassDOT, along with federal and MBTA money. The city of Beverly is footing $500,000 of the bill. The site is currently home to a former gas station, auto repair shop and two houses, all vacant, and the property is owned entirely by the MBTA.
Ryan Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.