T finally adds JFK/UMass upgrade to list of projects

The MBTA, struggling with slowed-down trains and crumbling infrastructure across the system, has finally placed an overhaul of JFK/UMass Station on its to-do list.

Lat week, the agency released a five-year financial plan aimed at funding all of the public agency’s capital projects from fiscal year 2024 to fiscal year 2028. The plan is updated annually, and the latest version adds $2.3 million for a planning study that would “increase safety, accessibility, and climate resiliency through station redesign, new stairs and elevators, and busway alteration” at JFK/UMass.

“This is the first step toward a full station redesign,” said T spokeswoman Lisa Battiston.

The transit hub, which serves the Red Line, bus riders, and commuter rail customers, has been in tough shape over the last few years, with shuttered walkways and staircases at various points.

Last year, after engineering consultants said they had “structural concerns,” the agency shut down for four months of repair stairs that take passengers from the busway up and over to the Red Line.

Separately, a walkway that leads passengers from Columbia Road to the station’s lobby also had structural issues, leading to a fencing that didn’t come down for nearly two months as it waited to get repaired. Another staircase off Sydney Street was closed for months last year.

Just this week, the MBTA alerted riders to an out-of-service escalator, on the Ashmont-side platform leading up to Columbia Road, due to “maintenance.”

The station, originally known as “Columbia,” first opened in 1927. In the 1980s, it was renamed after the JFK Presidential Library and Museum on Columbia Point and the UMass Boston campus. Shuttle buses serving both institutions regularly arrive and depart from the busway that also serves three bus lines that take riders to Jamaica Plain, Kenmore Square, and Forest Hills.

While the station has undergone some updates in the decades since, local civic leaders and lawmakers like state Rep. Dan Hunt have pushed for a full-scale overhaul. The McCormack Civic Association’s Michael McColgan said the station needs a “rehab or modernization,” noting that JFK/UMass is “in a vast center of educational institutions and museums.” That was in 2019.

Even as repair workers have been shuttling in and out of the station, developers have pushed proposals up and down the Morrissey Boulevard corridor, touting access to the Red Line. The new residential units and commercial spaces, from the multibillion “Dorchester Bay City” project on the site of the old Bayside Expo Center property and towers replacing the old Channel 56 building, down to apartment complexes rising next to Boston Bowl, could add thousands of new riders to the system in the coming years, if developers get the necessary city and state approvals and economic tailwinds.

Hunt welcomed the planning news but noted the small number attached. Members of the public can weigh in over the next month, as part of a comment period.

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