Lawmakers Vent Over State Of Crumbling Alewife Garage

A trio of state lawmakers on Monday pressed transit officials over the condition of the parking garage at the MBTA's Alewife Station, which reopened in the morning after deteriorating concrete forced a weekend shutdown for repairs and assessment.

Saying she was representing "an incredibly angry group of towns," Sen. Cindy Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, called on the MBTA to detail its plans for the Cambridge garage, roll back a planned parking fee increase, and in general "do a much better job of communicating with us."

"Have you looked at the Alewife station? It's being held up by hydraulic jacks. It has been for years," Friedman said at a meeting of the T's Fiscal and Management Control Board. "It floods. It's disgustingly dirty, you can't find somebody there to help you, a T employee — we assume they've all been reassigned — and it is in such a state of disrepair that people are frankly scared to go there, and yet it is the only place to park if you take the Red Line from those west and northwestern suburbs, so we are really in a crunch here."

MBTA general manager Luis Ramirez said a piece of laminated concrete — which he described as "like a veneer that goes in front of the structure" — fell onto a customer's car on the second floor of the Alewife garage on Wednesday afternoon, and engineers subsequently identified a need for spot concrete repairs in "a number of locations within the garage."

Crews conducted repairs overnight Wednesday and into Thursday, leaving 500 parking spaces, or about 20 percent of the garage's capacity, out of use for that time, Ramirez said.

"Through that repair work, additional areas of deteriorated concrete were discovered that needed to be addressed," he said. "Considering the space constraints within the garage and because of the additional deterioration, we decided to close the garage for the weekend, again realizing that this caused an inconvenience to our customers. The fact is, the safety of our customers, employees and our contractors is and has to be our number one priority."

The $7 daily parking rate at Alewife is set to rise to $10 under a new policy the control board adopted in June that increased parking fees at some locations and lowered them at others.

Friedman, who spoke alongside Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville and Rep. Sean Garballey of Arlington during the meeting's public comment period, suggested the T should undo the hike at Alewife and should not charge anything until the garage is repaired.

"I know that sounds ridiculous, but come on," she said. "These people depend on that station to get to their jobs, and you guys, please take this with the sense of urgency that it requires. Do something proactive. Don't make us come here when the sky and the roof is falling in and beg you to pay attention."

Garballey said constituents and municipal officials are angry and highlighted how busy the garage is, saying that morning commuters who don't get to Alewife by 8:30 a.m. risk not getting a parking space. He said the situation at the garage will hurt the local economy, "as well as negatively impact the personal lives of our constituents."

Jehlen, whose district includes the Alewife garage, said Monday marked the second time this summer she has come to a meeting "to discuss an MBTA facility that is falling near — not yet on — my constituents."

"We keep doing patchwork repairs, and not addressing the real problem," she said.

Ramirez said the garage's condition "has been on the radar for some time" and the T plans a three-phase approach, beginning with nightly monitoring. Overnight parking at Alewife is banned as of Monday for engineers to inspect ongoing repairs, and Ramirez said crews will be on hand to address any issues that may be discovered.

The garage will also be closed this weekend, starting at the end of service on Friday.

The second phase, Ramirez said, will begin in September with "a more comprehensive plan for repairs." Last week, the MBTA awarded a $5.7 million repair contract for the Alewife garage, which he said is the first portion of a $14.3 million appropriation included in the T's five-year capital plan.

The work scheduled to start next month includes repairing beams, patching concrete desks, re-caulking deck joints, and cleaning and flushing the existing drainage system, according to the T.

The third phase will be "advancing development of a long-term plan" for the Alewife garage, Ramirez said.



More from WBUR

Listen Live