GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 13, 2013

Rockport panel resurrects MBTA talks

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — Town government runs on a reliable schedule, with meeting dates and times promptly posted with different boards and committees meeting on a regular basis.

But next week, the MBTA Station Advisory Committee will meet again — for the first time in years.

With the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority pumping new life into plans for Rockport, the committee will be meeting on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss recommendations to make to the Board of Selectmen.

The MBTA station on Railroad Avenue is the last stop for the Newburyport/Rockport line, and new plans call for upgrading the power supply to the trains as well as adding an informational kiosk.

The power upgrades will reduce the amount of idle time when engines are starting up, the station also acts as a layover facility for four six car trains overnight, providing layover power to the trains.

This is the first meeting of the committee in more than two years, said Planning Board chair Hank Betts, who also serves on the MBTA committee.

“There’s kind of been nothing to meet on,” he quipped Wednesday.

Due to funding and its own budgeting issues, the MBTA’s $20 million plan to carry out major upgrades to the station between 2008 and 2010 fell through. According to current plans, the power upgrade and kiosk design work represents “initial steps” toward more improvements by the MBTA in consultation with the town and its residents.

Various committee members said they would be in favor of discussing drainage improvements and giving the station’s parking lot an upgrade.

“It’s an eyesore,” MBTA Advisory Committee chair and longtime town volunteer Nick Barletta said of the parking lot.

Barletta said the town owns the section of the lot closest to Railroad Avenue with the state transportation agency owning the segment closest to Evans Field.

He said that, while the project still needs to be fully funded, he was optimistic the state agency would follow through this time.

“They wouldn’t spend their time and effort if they were not sincere about it,” he said.

Other members said they just see more of the same.

“I don’t think anyone sees much change will come from the MBTA’s recent announcement, but it renews attention to the sad state of our station, and reminds us all of what could — and should — be,” said committee member and longtime town official Sam Coulburn.

Coulburn also hoped he could bury the idea of a “hush hut,” which was previously discussed.

“I think we’re pretty low on the priority list,” Betts said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.