By SCOTT JACKSON
City officials are aiming to open the Independence Avenue entrance to the Quincy Adams MBTA station in November.
The city plans to implement a new residential parking program in the abutting neighborhood and install a new traffic signal at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Verchild Street ahead of the gate opening.
Ed Grennon, a junior traffic engineer for the city, shared those details with the dozen residents who attended a community meeting Wednesday on upcoming garage improvement projects the MBTA will begin in the coming weeks at the Quincy Adams and Braintree stations.
A meeting to discuss the gate opening is set for Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 6 p.m. inside the First Presbyterian Church at 270 Franklin St.
Mayor Thomas Koch had announced earlier this year he would re-open the gate, which has remained locked since the 1980s, this fall based on feedback the city received from residents. The Penn’s Hill Neighborhood Association hosted an online survey on the gate last year and held a pair of community meetings on the topic then as well. Five hundred four people responded to the survey, with 80 percent in favor of re-opening it and 18 percent opposed. The other 2 percent were undecided. The neighborhood group took no position on opening the gate.
The gate’s closure has meant that residents living in the neighborhood to the east of Quincy Adams have no direct access to the station, requiring them to walk 30 minutes or more each way to and from the station on a daily basis.
The gate re-opening has not been without controversy, with some residents concerned T commuters will park on residential streets in lieu of the Quincy Adams garage. Ron MacDonald, a Penn’s Hill resident, said he was concerned the T’s decision to increase parking rates at Quincy Adams starting next month would provide an additional incentive to park in the neighborhood.
“Increasing the fees encourages people to go around the other side and find a parking space on Independence Avenue,” he said. “My question for the T is this: What are you going to do proactively to help the city and stop that kind of parking going on on that side of the station?”
Rick Colon, the public affairs director for the state Department of Transportation, said the T would cooperate with city officials as they have done during the closure of Wollaston station and other projects.
Grennon said the city would enforce existing parking restrictions in the area and the new residential parking program, which the City Council must approve before it can take effect, will help mitigate concerns about parking as well. The Traffic, Parking, Alarm and Lighting Department will also increase enforcement in the area following the hiring of two new parking control officers, one of whom will be assigned to the neighborhood.
“We already have some restrictions in place over there, which will allow us to enforce people parking all day in zones that they shouldn’t be parking. The additional residential program will broaden those restrictions even further to give us a wider reach to where we can keep people out of,” Grennon said.
“We did add more parking enforcement. We are going to focus our efforts over there.”
Residents with concerns about commuters parking in their neighborhood and walking to the station should contact TPAL, he added. The department would then be able to determine if there were restrictions in place that could be enforced, or if new restrictions would be required.
Councillor Anne Mahoney said the city should reconsider trying to implement the gate opening, the new residential parking program and the new traffic signal at the intersections at roughly the same time.
“If you’re going to open the gate and have a residential parking program happen at the same time and the traffic light happen at the same time that could be a disaster,” she said. “If you’re onboarding everything at the same time, you’re not giving anybody time to learn the traffic patterns for what’s coming.”
The T will begin its $64.3 million project to overhaul the Quincy Adams and Braintree garages in late August or early September, according to project manager Steven Belanger. The work will be substantially complete by October 2021 and entirely finished by the end of that year.
The project is intended to extend the lifespan of the two garages, both of which opened in the 1980s, by 40 years.
The work at Quincy Adams will include improvements to the Independence Avenue entrance, including new lighting, new pavement and tree trimming.
Up to 300 parking spaces total between the two stations will be unavailable on any given weekday, Belanger said. To mitigate that impact, the T will make available more than 400 spaces – 88 at Quincy Adams and 313 in Braintree. The new spaces at Quincy Adams will be created within the current parking area, while privately owned lots will be used near the Braintree station.
Beth Larkin, an assistant general manager for the MBTA, said the transit agency had reached out to Home Depot to use spaces in its parking lot near Quincy Adams. Those spaces are not available, however, because Home Depot has an agreement with a developer in place for that lot.
There are currently more than 2,500 parking spaces available at Quincy Adams, and more than 1,300 at the Braintree station.
Some residents at the community meeting questioned the timing of the garage projects given that the Wollaston station will be closed through next summer as it is rebuilt, a mixed-use project will soon break ground at North Quincy, resulting in a loss of parking spaces there, and the Quincy Center garage is now being demolished, which could set the stage for development there.
Sen. John Keenan said those projects and others to improve the Red Line by replacing entire fleet of trains and upgrading signals are competing for funding against other transit proposals around the state.
“I have colleagues in the state Senate who are very aggressive in seeking funding for their projects, particularly for rail to go from Boston to Springfield and for rail to go from Boston to the South Coast – Fall River and New Bedford,” Keenan said.
“They are very aggressively seeking funding and we’ve got the funding, so we’ve got to take advantage of it and use it while we do have it and that may mean, as it does, that everything is going to happen quickly at once, but we’re just going to have to do it that way and get through it.”