Red Line commuters who have waited through years of Ashmont Station construction for a back entrance to the subway to reopen will have to trek around the station for another year and a half â€“ at least.
The Radford Lane entrance to the station, tucked on the one-way side street off Carruth Street, wonâ€™t open until the middle of 2011, according to MBTA officials. The news has left some in the neighborhood upset about continued longer walks and concerned about the ultimate fate of the entrance.
The first phase of the station reconstruction, which is about a year behind schedule, is winding down and should be complete this month, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. Workers are installing granite as part of a new plaza just north of the station; elevators went into service last week; and the stationâ€™s bus lanes recently opened in front of the complex.
The MBTA will solicit bids in the next couple of months for the second phase of the project, which includes the Radford Lane entrance and other finishing touches to the project, Pesaturo said. If all goes as planned, he said, the T should get the go-ahead to start work in January or February, with a completion date about 18 months later.
With a Phase 1 cost of $52.6 million, â€œAshmont Station has become a state-of-the-art, multi-modal public transit hub that will serve the neighborhood very well for decades to come,â€ Pesaturo said.
But some in the neighborhood arenâ€™t pleased with the timetable. Patrick Brophy helped collect more than 1,000 signatures on a petition in 2003 to keep the Radford Lane entrance to the station open after the original plans called for it to be closed off. The group lobbied successfully to have the entrance included in the plans. But now, because of the lengthy closure, Brophy feels betrayed.
â€œThey have not lived up to their end of the bargain, he said.
He is pleased, though, with the station as a whole. Brophy, who lives near St. Brendanâ€™s Church, said that while he can walk the extra 10 minutes it takes him to get around the station, he worries about older residents and others for whom the long walk is a struggle.
â€œWe are lucky to have that kind of investment realized in our neighborhood during these tough economic times,â€ he said.
â€œBut they are reducing access in a time when they should be trying to encourage green transportation.â€
The Radford Lane entrance has always been included in the second phase of the project, Pesaturo said. There was no way to build it earlier, he said, because that area has served as a construction staging area and provided the only access to that side of the station for construction equipment.
The construction activity makes it unsafe for pedestrians, and project officials were clear about the need to keep it closed during construction, he said.
Chris Stanley, co-chairman of the Community Advisory Committee for the station renovation, said he has heard concerns in the neighborhood that the entrance may never open, but he said thatâ€™s not the case. â€œIf it is in the plans, it is going to get built,â€ he said. â€œIt is just not going to be built as soon as weâ€™d like.â€
When the entrance does open, plans call for added security measures, including better lighting, security cameras, and pay gates that should help keep people from loitering, Stanley said in emphasizing that the entrance is really important to people in the neighborhood, though he said he hopes to continue to use the Dorchester Avenue entrance even once Radford Lane opens. He also hopes the new plaza, as well as the businesses and restaurants in the Carruth building adjacent to the station, will make that area a neighborhood draw.
Stanley, who has been involved with the station renovation project for more than eight years, said he has been frustrated by the pace and cost of the overall construction project as well as communication from the MBTA, especially regarding the second phase of the project.
â€œI know ultimately it is going to be finished,â€ he said. â€œBut there is no urgency to finish.â€
â€œThis rear entrance is critically important to hundreds of people,â€ said City Councillor Maureen Feeney, noting that users extend beyond the immediate neighborhood to areas including Adams Village and Cedar Grove. â€œIt is difficult when something goes on so long, but it is a complicated process.â€