WINCHESTER - On Thursday night, the MBTA shut down the Winchester Center Commuter Rail Station due to weather-related issues. Monday night, the town received a bit of good news from the transit authority: it reinstated the funding necessary to begin work on renovating the station.
According to State Senator Jason Lewis, who popped into the Select Board’s meeting last night, the MBTA is ready to fund the project, at $50M, and work expeditiously to put the project out to bid.
“I want to thank Senator (Patricia) Jehlen and Representative (Michael) Day for their strong advocacy to help restore the funding,” Sen. Lewis remarked. “I also want to thank the board and the community.”
The senator noted how the project started more than a decade ago, when he was merely a new state representative, at an initial cost of $12M-$15M. Since then, the MBTA pushed the project back and the cost continued to increase. Today’s cost doesn’t even include the money Town Meeting authorized the town to spend for several projects it deemed important and the MBTA refused to cover.
In fact, this project goes back to when Mel Kleckner was town manager and the Select Board had to authorize some temporary repairs just to keep the station open for users. In the decade since, the situation only worsened with it now getting to a point where the MBTA felt the need to shut it down completely and force riders to use the Wedgemere station.
Almost exactly one year ago, the MBTA reached the 90 percent design phase. In 2011, the transit authority and the town came to an agreement on the 15 percent design phase. Therefore, it took the MBTA nine years to complete 75 percent of the design.
Work should have started back in 2013 and finished in 2015. Then, according to the MBTA, it should have begun in 2017 for $30M. Instead, the MBTA kept tinkering with the design. Finally, out of the blue, the MBTA announced it reached the 60 percent design phase late in 2019 before reaching the 90 percent design phase one year ago.
Today, it appears everything is in order to find a construction crew to actually work on the site, and in a couple of years, Winchester should finally have a renovated and working commuter rail station.