As the skeletal arc of the new Ashmont Station finally begins to reach into the sky in Peabody Square, many are beginning to wonder if it will ever be fully fleshed out. Delays have pushed the first phase of the project nearly 11 months behind schedule, and the second phase isn't set to be put out to bid until June of this year. It would be awarded in July, starting a 16-month long journey to what MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo called "substantial completion" in December 2010.
"Will I be glad when this very good looking, modern station is open and functioning?" wrote Chris Stanley, co-chair of the project's Community Advisory Council, in an email to the Reporter. "Yes. Am I disappointed that the process is too often delayed, arduous and has seemingly lost an opportunity to capitalize on the community sponsored idea of a transit-oriented development? In a word, yes."
Stanley and others in the neighborhood complain that buses turning around and off-loading passengers on Dorchester Avenue disrupt traffic and impact local businesses, and that the delays hamper the potential success of the Carruth building, a transit oriented development. The T has also released very little information about the station's finishing touches or those of the "north plaza" just outside.
"Things are a mess in the square until they do finish up," said Dan Larner of St. Mark's Area Main Streets. Asked about impact on the new businesses now located in the Carruth building, Larner said it was hard to tell about Flat Black Coffee Company and Wainwright Bank, "but Tavolo is definitely affected because the buses stop right there. You don't want to be obscured by buses."
"I just know that the buses don't help my business," said Chris Douglas, owner of the Tavolo. "The buses bring traffic and people loitering around. It's not inviting. It's hard for us to stake our claim out there."
In the original plan, buses were going to use the station's 'kiss and ride' area to board and disembark passengers. That street loops around the Carruth and is largely complete. But Pesaturo sent an email explaining that a change in design made the turns in the kiss and ride too sharp for a city bus to maneuver through.
"The MBTA also extended the use of Dot Ave. to complete the center roof section and the new platform," wrote Pesaturo. "This decision was made to eliminate the need to put the buses back out onto the avenue in the phase II contract."
He said the final push on the bus way will begin early this spring, which would mean any day now, and that the work is "tracking toward" completion this summer.
Delays to the rest of the station, he said, were due to unexpected demolition and replacement of both platforms, the addition of an emergency generator building and center roof construction to the phase I contract, and an redesign of the elevators to improve wheelchair access.