Four Corners eyes plans for rail station

The Greater Four Corners Action Coalition met to inspect the MBTA's 30 percent completed plans for the Four Corners commuter rail station on the Fairmount Line last Wednesday, Sept. 5. Neighbors who showed up approved the station's location, with platforms on either side of Geneva Avenue, but demanded more disabled access features, more walkways, local labor on construction crews, and more.

"We really don't put elevators at unmanned stations," replied MBTA planning director Joe Cosgrove to one demand. "The question is, who maintains it?"

"The T," someone yelled out.

"We're trying to tell you guys how it's done better," replied Marilyn MacNab, a local resident. "The elevator could be done. The [Americans with Disabilities Act is] treated as a maximum when it's really a minimum."

In addition to an elevator, which was strongly advocated by at least one other person in the crowd of thirty or more, people called out for all walkways to be covered, including a long stretch from Washington Street to Geneva, an improved, weather-proof design for shelters, and even completely covering the tracks to prevent the tactile bumps on the yellow too-close-to-the-track warning strip from icing over in winter.

The latter was described as impractical by T officials, because the Fairmount tracks are used at night for freight trains and certain clearances are needed. Snow removal equipment will be stored at the station and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad will be responsible for the shoveling, they said.

Pamela Bush and other members of GFCAC asked for another entrance to the inbound track on the south side of Geneva, and asked a number of questions about security cameras and call boxes that went largely unanswered. Call boxes and cameras will be installed at the station, said Cosgrove, but how many and if the cameras will be monitored by a live person wasn't known. A third concern was the design of the shelters at the station.

"If this is 21st century design, I think they were doing better 40 years ago because they understood that people had to stand inside and keep warm somewhere," said Bush.

At one point, even the host community organization bore the brunt of the critical atmosphere.

"I know that there is a cheering section here with an axe to grind, but geographically speaking it should be Mount Bowdoin Station," said Barry Steinberg of the Association for Public Transportation. Heads in the audience shook. Bush responded that the GFCAC had worked hard to get the station and probably wouldn't be open to the idea. But later, she conceded that maybe GFCAC "could look into the Four Corners/Mt. Bowdoin Station."

Finally, when talk of construction arose, a member of a worker's group asked if there would be any attempt to hire workers from the neighborhood for the project. The question prompted a tense moment in state and city relations.

"We don't follow the Boston plan -" began Pablo Calderon, the MBTA community relations representative.

"I'll handle this question," said MBTA project coordinator Darrin McAuliffe. "Excuse me councillor, the answer was: We're following the state plan, not the city regulations."

"Well, this is an issue we should raise with the MBTA board and maybe the governor," replied City Councillor Charles Yancey. "We want the economic benefits to be localized… and to see some semblance of economic justice in the construction of this station."

Yancey went on to make several points, including getting artwork at the station that might denote local history, new traffic lights on Washington St as well as Geneva for pedestrians, and a maintenance plan that could be reviewed by the community.

The construction contracts for Four Corners are expected to be up for bid in the spring, said Cosgrove. Design has not begun on the Newmarket, Talbot and Blue Hill/Cummins Highway stations, but spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said the MBTA is currently working on a contract with Edwards & Kelcey, the same company designing Four Corners, for the station designs as well as plans for some bridge replacements.