From Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch’s office, the concrete slab of the Quincy Center T station parking garage can be seen lying dormant among the trees. Even more unsettling than its appearance is the fact that structural problems have kept the 863-space garage closed for nearly two years.
But a massive transportation bill moving through the Legislature could propel progress by providing $10 million for design work on a state-of-the-art station.
While the plans are fluid, city officials hope to demolish the garage and replace it with retail space, a new parking garage, and a bus way — topped with either office space or a relocated Quincy District Court building.
“The station has been nothing to look at since it was built,” Koch said while sitting with his back to the building. “Over time, with the failure of the garage structurally, there are more challenges . . . it’s not a good welcome for people coming to visit and people who live here and use it every day.”
The problems spurred Koch to push for a revamping of the station that could ultimately cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and he recently enlisted the help of legislators to make it happen.
The $10 million is included in a $12.7 billion Transportation Bond Bill that has been approved by the state House. But its success in the state Senate is far from assured.
Quincy officials have selected engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff to analyze the environmental and physical constraints on the site. While negotiations have proceeded with the firm since September, work has been on hold. The city is waiting for sign-offs from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to use a $980,000 grant.
Yet Koch hasn’t held back in seeking money to advance the design once those questions are answered, and further progress depends largely on the state funding.
“This $10 million commitment will allow us to advance planning, concept, layout of what could be here, and it’s going to be something,” Koch said. “The question will be if the courthouse decides to invest or private development over the tracks happens.”
House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat who was critical of the T station closure from the start, said he proposed using the transportation bill to assist the renovation.
“I’ve always looked at ways to get this thing jump-started, since the T has very little money to maintain their stuff,” Mariano said. “And after talking to the mayor and getting his vision of the City Hall area and the whole Village Green concept, I thought that it would make some sense of having discussions of putting [the MBTA] asset back online.”
The next step could be more difficult. According to state Senator John F. Keenan, bills are more difficult to pass in the Senate, where members are outnumbered by requests.
Beyond the $10 million, the bill’s larger importance lies in language that lets the city take charge of developing a public/private partnership.
“It gives us the authorization we need and designates the city as the lead agency,” said Frank Tramontozzi, the city’s infrastructure engineer for the downtown.
That would enable the city to coordinate the myriad groups that have a stake in the project, and bring private developers on board.
Kelly Smith, deputy press secretary for the MBTA, said the agency supports a renovated station and a larger development that would bring more riders to the T, so much so that the organization has no Plan B.
“This project is part of a larger, ongoing discussion on available funding for competing transportation projects,” Smith said in a statement.
As for the courthouse, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Trial Court said the Quincy courthouse is one of several across the state that need expansion and upgrades. The Trial Court is preparing a 10-year capital plan for all of its 101 courthouses, the spokeswoman said.
According to Tramontozzi, officials of the Quincy court, located at 1150 Hancock St., want to modernize and consolidate operations in the redeveloped Quincy Center.
“The chief justice [for administration and mangement] did come to the mayor and ask about the possibility of some space in the downtown for a new courthouse,” he said. “This is one possible area they could end up going.”
The requested funding would likely be a drop in the bucket for a project that Tramontozzi believes will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Once the preliminary designs are completed, the administration plans to enlist a private entity that would finance, build, operate, and maintain the facility.
“We’ll have that $10 million to get us through the next step, in terms of having some better designs, some more advanced designs, so that when we do put it out for procurement, the people bidding on it will have a good idea of exactly what we’re looking for,” Tramontozzi said.