Alewife garage to open for Monday commute, but will close at night and next weekend
CAMBRIDGE — The MBTA’s Alewife parking garage reopened in time for the Monday morning commute, though there will be no overnight parking available and it will shut again next weekend for additional work, the agency said in a statement Sunday night.
An engineering and safety assessment of the condition of the garage, which underwent repairs after falling concrete damaged a parked car, found it was “safe for use,” the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said in the statement. An independent engineering consultant along with MBTA personnel conducted the assessment, the agency said.
The building will be closed during the week from 1 to 5 a.m. so the MBTA can conduct nightly inspections to monitor ongoing repairs, the statement said. The garage will also be closed next weekend for a “thorough follow-up assessment,” the statement said. The agency is urging customers to remove their vehicles before the end of service each weeknight.
The Alewife station garage is the T’s largest with about 2,600 parking spaces and is the northernmost stop on the Red Line service, making the garage a crucial step in commutes for residents of many communities north and west of Boston.
“The MBTA apologizes for the temporary displacement of parking spaces and appreciates customers’ patience while the work took place,” the agency said.
Crews worked through the weekend to shore up the structure ahead of a more extensive $5.7 million repair project expected to start next month. The T said last week that a maximum of 120 parking spaces will be taken out of commission during that work.
The immediate woes facing the Alewife garage began Wednesday, when the parked car was damaged by falling concrete. MBTA officials closed off about 500 spaces on Thursday and Friday to make repairs and subsequently closed the garage over the weekend.
“During the weekend closure, crews were able to address additional areas of deteriorated concrete, inspect and cover expansion joints where appropriate, and secure the paths of travel for pedestrian and vehicular access to the garage,” the statement said.
Christopher LeMar said his car was damaged at the garage after falling concrete smashed onto it in February 2017. He said that the MBTA should have acted sooner to launch a repair project and added that he believes there needs to be greater accountability for the MBTA when it comes to maintaining its facilities.
“Given what happened to me, they probably should have seen this coming,” LeMar said in an interview Sunday.
Cambridge City Councilor Jan Devereux, who rode her bicycle up to the garage Sunday afternoon, also criticized the MBTA’s handling of repair projects for its facilities.
“It is indicative of waiting until the 11th-and-a-half hour to take care of problems that are visible to the naked eye,” she said.
State Representative Kate Hogan, who represents Bolton, Hudson, Maynard, and Stow, used Facebook over the weekend to solicit concerns from her constituents about the garage.
“Thanks to [the] MBTA Team for our conversations and conference calls and for the work you were able to accomplish over the weekend,” she wrote in a Facebook post Sunday afternoon.
The longer range repairs planned for the garage came months after an MBTA consultant reported in late 2017 that the garage risked “imminent failure” and recommended “immediate corrective action.” The MBTA solicited bids for the work in July and awarded a contract on Thursday.
Months before that report was issued, LeMar said his 2011 Toyota Corolla S was parked on the third level of the garage on Feb. 18, 2017, where he left it at noon and returned around 10 p.m. that night from work to find that falling concrete had smashed open the car’s rear window.
MBTA transit police were unable to confirm LeMar’s account Sunday.
When he uses the MBTA now, he said, he prefers using its open-air lots such as Riverside in Newton.
“I’m a little more cautious. . . . I’m not interested in having a repeat of this,” LeMar said.
At the Alewife station Sunday afternoon, orange cones blocked the entrance to the garage, while construction workers could be seen making repairs to the structure.
Loud construction noises could be heard coming from the garage’s upper floors, where small chunks of concrete still littered parts of the lots.
On the second floor, five people in hard hats and neon vests walked around the lot with flashlights, inspecting the floor and columns. Workers could also be seen inspecting the concrete stairs on the eastern side of the garage, which were closed off.
Wendy Ji of Andover said she had hoped to park at Alewife and take the Red Line into the city before a work trip to New York. But she was turned away at the entrance.
Ji eventually decided to drive to Newton and park. She said she’s “just disappointed that they didn’t contact us or send a notice earlier. . . . I didn’t get any message or anything.”
Arlington resident Steve Scott said he thought about skipping the T Monday and driving all the way into work. He said it was “no surprise” to hear of the damage in the garage.
“You can actually view from one floor to the next. There’s holes in the floor,” he said. “The place is poorly managed.”
In a phone interview, Alannah Gustavson of Maynard said she wants to support public transportation and uses Alewife about twice a month with her family or friends when riding into Boston.
Even though she prefers using the Alewife garage, its condition led her to start using the Green Line’s Woodland station in Newton instead, she said.
“Between the lots being full [and] the garage looking like it’s about to fall down, we have not been going to Alewife as much. Which is sad, it’s a great location, it’s used by a ton of people,” she said.
She said she checks the MBTA website before heading out to use the service but wished the agency did more to update customers about parking availability at its lots, including Alewife.
“If the communication is open, I’m willing to give the MBTA plenty of patience and leeway,” Gustavson said.