, Gloucester, MA

June 14, 2013

Editorial: MBTA should hear, heed Rockporters

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — It’s understandable that Rockport officials would be dubious about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s revived plans for upgrading the town’s beleaguered commuter rail station.

It was, after all, just three years ago that the MBTA’s elaborate $20 million renovation proposal fell apart at the seams, even with $10 million supposedly set aside, amid the commuter rail agency’s seemingly perpetual budget gaps.

That said, it’s good to hear that Rockport’s MBTA Station Advisory Committee, which has not met in more than two years, is reconvening Monday night to begin talking about the new plans, which are to begin with a needed station power upgrade and installation of an informational kiosk. Now, we can only hope the MBTA hears and heeds what the committee says.

For while the MBTA is talking about kiosks, committee members like Nick Barletta, the longtime town selectman and station committee chairman who had tried to keep the agency on track the last time around, wants to talk about the stations’ real needs – such as an improved parking area.

“It’s an eyesore,” Barletta said of the current lot conditions — and he’s right. Upgrading the lot will take a cooperative approach; the MBTA shares ownership of it with the town. But that is precisely the kind of work that would make an appreciable difference for those who use the station regularly, including Rockport’s daily commuters.

Fellow committee member Samuel Coulbourn acknowledged that he doesn’t think “much change will come from the MBTA’s recent announcement.” But he noted one of the real plusses – the idea of a renewed project reminds residents and officials alike of what the station could — and should — be.

The catch this time is to ensure that Rockport officials and residents alike have very real input into the project’s needs and priorities — and that the MBTA actually take the time to listen. That’s what cooperation is supposed to be all about,