Beverly T garage to open late, but Salem project on track
A late groundbreaking, an unexpected discovery of hazardous waste, and bitter cold temperatures have delayed the construction of the new $34.1 million MBTA parking garage in Beverly. T administrators say the garage will open this June, at least five months later than planned.
In contrast, the MBTA’s other major garage project on the North Shore, a $44.5 million, 715-car parking facility in Salem, is on schedule and will open this October, according to MBTA project manager George Doherty Jr.
Doherty said he expects the new four-story Beverly garage to stay within budget, even with the delay.
The projects, which took decades to fund, are part of the MBTA’s effort to add more parking spaces for commuters at some of its busiest T rail stations. Work at Beverly’s new station, which will accommodate 500 cars and have a covered pedestrian walkway to the train platform at the Beverly Depot, was supposed to begin in November 2012 but was delayed for administrative reasons until February 2013.
“The delay had to do with the processing of paperwork for funding, as well as we went through a transition of a new general manager,” said Doherty, referring to the T’s current general manager, Beverly Scott, who took office in mid-December of 2012.
Doherty also said the discovery and eventual disposal of contaminated soil slowed the project by a month, and this winter’s cold and snow brought further delays. “A lot of the days it’s too cold to pour the concrete,” said Doherty. “We’ve lost production because the workers cannot work as fast in the cold weather.”
With the project close to 75 percent finished and the garage’s top deck expected to be completed soon, electricians, plumbers, and other subcontractors are working on the lower floors.
To construct the facility, four buildings were torn down, and the T’s old parking lot — which held 100 cars — was closed, with the site included in the garage project. That led commuters to arrive earlier each morning to look for the few legal spots in the area. Some commuters park as far as a mile away, on Cabot Street or in a parking lot along Route 62, across from the Cummings Center.
Joel Starbird, who was waiting for a train to Ipswich at the Beverly Depot on a recent day, was critical of the T’s construction schedule.
“They should have thought about it first and planned properly instead of making people wait for it. It’s going to be an inconvenience for people who need it — especially when there’s snow on the ground and there’s nowhere to park,” he said.
Mayor Mike Cahill, who took office this month, stressed patience during the project, and said the city — which is paying $500,000 toward the $34.1 million garage — has waited for a long time for the garage to be built.
“We want to make sure that they complete the job properly, and I understand the issues that have come up,” said Cahill, who believes the garage will help boost Beverly’s economy by enticing commuters to visit downtown stores, restaurants, and arts events.
“We’ll be in communication to encourage them to stay within this outline and have the garage operational by late spring at the latest,” he said.
City Council president Paul Guanci also said the public needed to take a long view of the new Beverly garage.
“It’s going to be there for decades, freeing up off-street parking for residents and businesses and making things easier for commuters,” he said.
Doherty said there could be further construction even after the garage opens; the structure is being built to hold an additional four floors. And because it has a setback of 60 feet from Rantoul Street, a building as high as eight levels could also be constructed in front of the garage, with the city’s permission, he said.
In Salem, the new 715-car, five-level garage is on schedule to open before Halloween, Doherty said. The original $39 million budget was increased to $44.5 million after the project began, he said.
The extra $5.5 million was for a video security system and enhanced architectural features, such as added brick, and a pedestrian bridge that will connect the garage to the city’s downtown.