Citing ‘critical structural finding,’ MBTA closes Columbia Rd. entrance to JFK/UMass station

The Columbia Road entrance is closed. (Gintautas Dumcius photo)

MBTA officials are continuing to discover structural issues with JFK/UMass station, a key transit hub located in Dorchester’s Columbia-Savin Hill neighborhood. They've also discovered similar issues at the Savin Hill MBTA station.

The MBTA this past weekend closed the JFK/UMass station’s Columbia Road entrance after an inspection last weekend led to a “critical structural finding.”

T inspectors kept reviewing the rest of the concourse that runs over the station's Braintree-side tracks and found “additional structural issues.” The public transit agency, which did not detail the structural issues, now expects the concourse to be closed for at least four to five weeks.

Other areas of the station may be closed off as inspections continue, the MBTA said.

“The MBTA determined that closing the entrance was in the best interest of public safety,” Lisa Battiston, a spokesperson for the public transit agency, said in a statement. “The closure will require pedestrians to divert to the pedestrian bridge connection from the busway ramp.”

The JFK/UMass Station serves the Red Line, three commuter rail lines, various MBTA bus lines and shuttle buses to the JFK Library, the Edward Kennedy Institute and the UMass Boston campus.

A recent similar inspection at Savin Hill's MBTA station also found issues with the Savin Hill Avenue bridge, in the framing directly below "sidewalk areas," the MBTA said.

"The roadway bridge is adjacent to the station," Battiston said. "To ensure the safety of riders and pedestrians, a decision was made to close the sidewalk areas on the bridge. Pedestrians are now directed to use a temporary sidewalk along the parking lane, which is now closed to vehicles. Fencing and signs have been placed to direct pedestrians. The MBTA is also scheduling a weekend shuttle bus diversion to accommodate riders once construction begins. More information will be shared as it becomes available."

At JFK/UMass, transit “ambassadors” are available to help customers navigate around the Columbia Road entrance's closure, and a van is available upon request for riders with disabilities needing to get between the Columbia Road entrance and the JFK/UMass busway area during the closure, according to Battiston.

On Tuesday, a transit “ambassador” was posted at the Columbia Road entrance, opening for customers a locked exit door that led down to the Ashmont-bound side of the station.

On Tuesday evening, the MBTA said that exit-only stair at Columbia Road to the Ashmont platform will remain open, allowing riders to enter and exit.

The entryway to concourse just a few feet away, which is built over the Braintree-bound side of the station, is still closed off at both Columbia Road and at the platform level.

On the other side of the station underneath I-93, the staircase off Sydney Street, close to the Moseley Street corner, remains open and accessible, while the stairs at the Sydney Street entrance that’s near Crescent Avenue have been closed for months.

“The MBTA recognizes this is an inconvenience to our customers,” Battiston wrote in response to an inquiry about the Columbia Road entrance’s closure. “We remain committed to safely operating and investing in our facilities, infrastructure and vehicles while delivering reliable service to our riders that depend on the MBTA for their transportation needs.”

Separately, the main stairs to the MBTA station, off Morrissey Boulevard, were closed for four months earlier this year, starting on May 19, after staffers and engineering consultants found “structural concerns.”

In September 2021, another set of stairs, connecting the Columbia Road overpass to Old Colony Avenue underneath, became the focus of a death investigation after a 40-year-old Boston University professor fell through them. State workers demolished the stairs, which were owned by the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT), after his death.

The stairs had been in disrepair, and a sign with MBTA branding said they would be closed until “Fall 2020.” His family has filed a lawsuit against the MBTA and MassDOT.

Columbia Road concourse.jpg
The concourse, as viewed from inside JFK/UMass MBTA station. (Gintautas Dumcius photo)

This post was updated with additional information on Savin Hill MBTA station. An additional update Tuesday evening referred to the Ashmont exit-only entry.

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