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April 30, 2014

List of MBTA sites narrows

PLAISTOW — Officials are narrowing their focus on a project to bring a commuter rail stop to town.

On Monday night, selectmen instructed Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald to focus on about half the sites previously being considered for a new MBTA layover or commuter station.

“The board asked me to go and get some additional information on four locations that were presented for the layover and two for the station,” Fitzgerald said.

Previously, officials were looking at six layover sites and five potential station locations.

The two train station sites include one behind Joanne Drive and another off Westville Road by the town park-and-ride lot, Fitzgerald said.

A layover station would be a much larger project, one for storing trains when they’re idle, Selectmen’s Chairman Dan Poliquin said.

The following are being considered for layover stations, Fitzgerald said: one adjacent to the Westville Road park-and-ride lot, one far off Joanne Drive toward the former Chart Industries site, another along Route 121 behind the Wal-Mart and Home Depot plaza, and a fourth just over the town line in Haverhill.

Cutting down the project’s focus shouldn’t be seen as eliminating possibilities, only costs, Poliquin said.

“They’re just looking to not spend money in areas that are going to be nonproductive,” Poliquin said. “If they bring something forward and the town is going to automatically shoot it down, that’s money spent in futility.”

The sites now off the list were eliminated because they don’t make sense, Fitzgerald said.

“Some of these reasons had to do with challenges regarding the terrain or location of the loading platform, parking or access to areas of those properties,” Fitzgerald said.

The early work to select and design a site is funded through a $10.4 million grant from the state. About $659,000 will be used to complete a feasibility study, while the final project is expected to cost as much as $29.5 million.

About $20,000 to $30,000 of what was set aside for the study has been spent, Fitzgerald said.

A lot of work must be done before a shovel is put in the ground or taxpayers vote, he said.

“We’re just at the initial stage of the site selection and site evaluation process,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re just discarding the work underneath the scope of the project.”

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