Concerns Arise over Uphams Corner Station Shutdown Details

The MBTA, which plans to close Uphams Corner Station for a year during renovation, met Tuesday with resistance from residents confused about the transit agency's plans for replacement service.

The Dudley Street station, slated to close May 1 for extensive upgrades to its accessibility and passenger platforms, is part of a broader T strategy to modernize the Fairmount - or "Indigo" - Line, with $35 million budgeted for Uphams Corner and Morton Street stations, and a new station at Four Corners pending.

In scheduling the year-long substitute transit for Uphams Corner, the T's Service Planning Department had designated the #17 bus as the only one which would accept subway passes to take displaced riders of the commuter rail into town. But several Uphams-area residents at a meeting Tuesday night at the Alexander Magnolia Cooperative Center pointed out that the #17 doesn't travel on Dudley Street, instead staying on Columbia Road. They pushed for more bus lines to be included in replacement service.

"The 17's a funny choice, considering it doesn't go by the station at all to begin with," said Gloria-Ann Vieria, a local activist. "If you have four buses that go by the area, why can't we use at least the two that go by the station?"

As alternatives or additions, residents offered the #15, #16, and #41 bus routes. Under the current plan, riders aiming to get downtown on a bus besides the #17 would need to pay an additional 90 cents.

"This is the only station in the whole system that's being asked to do this for a whole year," said Bob Haas. "We're the only ones."

At Savin Hill Station, which the T plans to re-open in May after a long-than-expected yearlong closing, replacement bus service ferried passengers to JFK-UMass Station, the next stop along the Red Line.

T officials said they would reconsider the bus services before the station closes May 1.

Esther Johnson, the T's project manager, said the station is only used regularly by 150 riders, a number that pales next to some of the area's more heavily-trafficked transportation hubs. But Uphams Corner residents have long argued that a more attractive, safer, and visible station would goose ridership numbers.

"When is there actually going to be a line for me, a person that lives in the neighborhood?" asked Franklin Miller, who said he doesn't use the line in part because he's not aware of its schedule, and in part because it doesn't run on weekends.

"This should be something that's more beneficial for the people in the neighborhood," Miller continued, citing a study conducted by the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, where he works, which found 90 percent of area residents unfamiliar with the Fairmount Line.

Johnson said more frequent service in the rail corridor's future depended on ridership trends.

"There's only so many trains they have, and only so many services they have," Johnson said of the T.

Residents appeared generally pleased with the T's final design plan itself, but quibbled some more with the T's communication efforts.

Printing fliers and informational material in multiple languages should be on priority for the T, said Denise Gonsalves, executive director of Cape Verdean Community UNIDO, the former Cape Verdean Community Task Force.

Pointing to the area's wide range of ethnicities, Gonsalves said, "If you do not have things translated, it means absolutely nothing."

Uphams Corner Station, 2.5 miles from South Station, is the second-to-last stop on the Fairmount Line's 9.2-mile track. According to Frank Astone, senior project manager for Edwards and Kelcey, the firm designing the station's overhaul, construction will raise the platforms to train level for greater accessibility, and extend the inbound platform several hundred feet. A sloped walkway from Dudley St. will complement the existing stairway.

The Fairmount modernization also calls for several of the bridges along the track to be repaired and painted.

According to Johnson, the construction contract for the Morton Street station will be opened for contractors' bids within the next few weeks.

The T was planning to hold a meeting Wednesday night, after the Reporter went to press, with residents of Harvard and Greenwood Streets.

The Dorchester Bay EDC will also hold a Fairmount Line meeting, this on Monday, April 4, 6-7:30 p.m., in the Alexander Magnolia Cooperative Center.