Each year, the Alewife MBTA Station in Cambridge serves as an access point for hundreds of thousands of commuters as they travel around Greater Boston. Unfortunately, after years of wear and tear, Alewife’s car garage is in need of critical repairs and upgrades. But good news may be on the way.
During recent debate on transportation bonding and policy, local State Senator Mike Barrett offered a successful amendment to authorize the administration to spend $100 Million on major renovation and repairs to the structure. The money would be used specifically for repairs, re-construction, and climate change adaption.
Alewife Station opened to the public in 1985. But, Barrett points out, the garage originally provided for 2,733 parking spots. Nowadays at any given moment 250 may be unusable due to falling concrete and roof leakage.
“I hear from constituents on a regular basis about the poor condition of the garage,” Barrett says. “It’s insecure and, to be honest, a little creepy at night. At times the garage has had the highest reported crime rate of any station on the entire MBTA.”
A 2011 report revealed extensive decay in the concrete beams and columns holding up the Alewife Garage. It concluded: “Field observations of the garage revealed a considerable amount of water leakage…The leakage is a major cause of the structural deterioration of the concrete topping on the precast concrete beams.”
A more recent 2017 report found the worst deterioration is on the second and third levels, where the state of the steel reinforced concrete beams is between “critical” and possible “imminent failure” due to the “level of delamination, spalling and cracking” and areas of “exposed, corroded rebar.”
Barrett says that a portion of the money will be used for multi-modal access to Alewife station, an important change in the fight against global warming. The transportation sector is responsible for roughly 40% of carbon emissions in Massachusetts, Barrett says. In addition to allowing more riders to access public transportation, he wants the garage upgrades to allow for green transportation like bicycles.
Currently, the garage is equipped to house about 500 bikes. Even so, the bike cages are crowded and inconvenient; slots for bikes are often high off the ground and inaccessible for many riders.
“Tip of the hat to Cambridge State Rep. Dave Rogers, who offered a similar amendment in the House, and to Tami Gouveia, who’s the sparkplug in the Legislature for improving the Parking Garage,” Barrett says. “And to Somerville State Senator Pat Jehlen, who signed on to cosponsor my amendment.”
The Senate transportation bond bill must be reconciled with the House version before going to the governor’s desk.
Should the provision survive the Legislative process and become law, it’s still not a done deal, Barrett says. Because this is a bond authorization, the governor must decide to direct money to the specified improvements and the treasurer must sell bonds to pay for them.