WINCHESTER - On Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Winchester High School there was an MBTA public meeting on the Winchester Center Station improvements. State Senator Jason Lewis started the public meeting by stating that the Winchester Center Station was built in the 1950s but has fallen into a state of disrepair over the decades. The MBTA and Keolis on numerous occasions have made short term repairs on the station but he believes those are just band-aids.
The project to rebuild the station in his opinion is very important to the future of their community and is very exciting. Sen. Lewis commented that it is important to rebuild the station because it is a transportation hub for this town and region. The benefits of rebuilding the station are they expect it to increase ridership, take more cars off the road to help ease congestion, and improve the environment and public health.
Sen. Lewis mentioned that this process to rebuild the station has been going on for almost a decade beginning in 2010 and has been a long and challenging road. He said the town now has full funding of approximately $50 million to rebuild the station, which is programmed in the MBTA’s capital budget. He reported that this project is a high priority project for the MBTA.
The Senator revealed that the goal is to complete the design and begin construction next year. There are still several very important decisions that need to be made which is where the public input is imperative. He noted also another important decision they need to make is whether during construction the station will be completely shut down or partially shut down. Also, important decisions need to be made about parking, both during and after the project is completed, to address the needs of commuters and other residents.
Nathan Rae, MBTA Project Manager, gave a presentation for this project. Rae stated that the main goals in this project are safety, accessibility, sustainability, resiliency, and operations.
As far as funding for this project, Rae echoed Sen. Lewis stating that to date Winchester station is in the books for approximately $50 million. They spent some money in 2010 at the Wedgemere station. They spent about $2.2 million applying two new mini-high platforms and two accessible ramps. In total, the MBTA has invested $52.8 million in the Town of Winchester.
Rae also stated that the design for this project is now 60 percent complete and in January it will be at 100 percent. Once they reach 100 percent, there will be another public meeting in January and then they are looking to advertise the project for construction in February of 2020. He said they are anticipating a construction date of spring 2020.
There are two construction method options. One is to partially close the station while construction is in progress. Another is to entirely close the station. Rae added that construction activities are slower if the station remains partially open. It would take 36 months of construction to complete the project if the station remained partially open. On the other hand, fully closing the station means that the train passes right through the station without stopping and it will save about eight months of construction, bringing the construction process to 28 months.
Rae also discussed the mitigation strategy during the construction of the station and said that parking is a huge issue that they are trying to solve right now. Another option is to take a bus or shuttle. These are all part of the planning and decision making for Winchester. Rae noted that around 120 parking spots will be affected temporarily during construction. He added that they know that parking is an issue and they want to mitigate their impact on that reality as much as possible. For those who walk and bike to Winchester Center, they want to promote the use of the Tri-Community Greenway for access.
Town Manager Lisa Wong stated that the public’s input is very important to this project. She explained that “there’s no such thing as too much communication on this project because of its importance and because of the accelerated timeline.”
This project will be impacting the town for the next 50-100 years so Wong stated that the town wants to make sure that it’s done right.