Lowell Sun: Littleton rail lot to get $2M upgrade

LITTLETON — Battles over parking spaces at the Grimes Lane commuter rail lot should subside this summer after construction of a new $2 million parking lot finishes in July, state officials confirmed yesterday.

Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki announced the awarding of the $2 million grant to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, part of $11 million in total improvements being made through federal stimulus dollars.

MBTA officials said the new lot, which will feature 45 additional spaces, will open on July 1. The addition means there will now be a total of 195 parking spots available for area commuters, according to officials.

State Rep. Jim Arciero, a Westford Democrat, wrote in an email that he was happy to hear that “critical funding” was secured and added that the new facility “will further accomodate job growth and greater economic activity in the area.”

Town Administrator Keith Bergman wrote, “We’ve been after this money for the T since March 2010.”

Bergman, resurrecting a favorite quote from a Sun story at the time, said, “My still-favorite quote from that … ‘I went to Niki Tsongas’ office and told her chief of staff, Brian Martin, ‘I only need one minute and $2 million.'”

Buying the 8.5-acre chunk of land was crucial, since replacing the old single-platform station will eliminate the only 47 spots currently available to commuters.

Removing those MBTA-owned spaces means the only available parking would have been available on an adjacent piece of private land, which is allowed to hold 100 cars that are charged a monthly parking fee.

The private-lot owners have offered to sell the land to the MBTA for $1.5 million. Building 100 more spots will cost an estimated $500,000, according to state records.

Arciero said state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, worked with him to secure the grant. Selectmen voted last year to support an effort to land the funding.

In an emailed statement, Eldridge said the news is “great” for Littleton residents, “particularly the town officials who have worked so hard to make the case for this project.”

The modernization of Littleton Station is part of the state’s Fitchburg Commuter Rail Improvement Project. MBTA officials said the project should be completed by December 2013 and will include $150 million in improvements, including rail replacement and the repair of six bridges along a 50-mile track extending from Boston to Fitchburg.

The line contains the oldest infrastructure within the MBTA system and is used each day by roughly 10,000 riders.

The new parking lots will include upgrades such as the MBTA’s parking payment system and an off-street passenger drop-off area that will accommodate shuttle buses and private vehicles.

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