It doesn’t take a lot of looking around to realize that the Newburyport Train Station is a disaster waiting to happen. The irony is that its greatest opportunity is just around the corner.
When the station was first opened up with much fanfare in 1998, there were some great potential for the city and for the immediate area. There was talk about developing a nice project with the station as the draw with nicely planned shopping area with affordable housing, landscaping and even some elevated parking (Little River Transit Village). The station building itself would house a train-oriented business or businesses and the city would have direct access to Boston as well as the other cities and towns along the way. In return, people could easily take the train for access to the industrial park and the downtown and more importantly, the station would be the main point of access for tourists who come up to visit our city.
So what is the condition of the station over ten years later? The most noticeable is the trash: trash in the bushes, trash on the walkways and trash under the tracks, etc. The company in charge of maintaining the parking lot and depot take minimal care – weeds rule as kings and the landscaping is dilapidated and shabby. No one occupies the train station itself because the wiring was improperly installed pouring full transformer energy into any luckless appliance installed. The building itself as attractive as it is, is not suitable for any company’s services making the area inside awkward and empty. Outside, the concrete is disintegrating causing a ball-bearing affect for any pedestrian making the wrong step.
Worse, other stations along the way have been trreated to diaramas of historic and cultural sites in their respective communities. Due to an administrative snafu, our depot is bare of any inviting scenes of our downtown regardless of past or present. Worse, after getting here, there is absolutely no clear way to get to the downtown unless you take a costly taxi.
This is NOT the fault of the City of Newburyport other than having the lack of realization that the station is in dire distress. Newburyport administrations have tried to put businesses in the station and it cost the city money to clean up the situation when they failed. The city doesn’t dare even encourage anyone because of financial distress – it can’t continually clean up the mess afterward nor should it since it was the MBTA who caused it! The town has worked to have shuttles available for the anticipated visitors only to have parking fees raised to intolerable levels and schedules reduced. Then, when the visitor gets here, they receive a cold shoulder with no idea how to get downtown and I should add, downtown safely.
Something has to be done to fix the problem. Whether we need volunteers to clean up the station and state politicians made aware of what needs to be fixed or for heaven’s sake, we need the place to be inviting – pictures and bulletin boards that invite visitors and clear markers as to how to get to downtown.
The need is urgent. We have only to Spring when the Clipper City Rail Trail is finished and another tourist season begins to organize ourselves and find a way to fix the problems. Who will start the process? The Chamber? The City? A volunteer group?
Who will answer the need?