North Wilmington Commuter Rail Station Improvements Delayed Until 2021, But Still Happening Despite COVID-19 & Economy

WILMINGTON, MA — Angel Donahue-Rodriguez, Director of Special Projects for MBTA, for recently gave an update to the Board of Selectmen on the upcoming installation of a new platform at the North Wilmington Commuter Rail Station.

“We’re now looking at Spring 2021 at the earliest for construction to begin,” said Donahue-Rodriguez. “Design work is continuing, but we’re limited with resources at the moment due to COVID-19… and can’t start new construction in the winter.”

Donahue-Rodriguez estimated the project is expected to cost $400,000-$500,000, of which the MBTA has already expended $171,000. In addition to the platform, a walkway from the parking lot to the platform, fencing, and lighting will be installed.

Donahue-Rodgriuez noted the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a drastic reduction in commuter rail ridership — down 93%. Pre-pandemic, the daily ridership at the North Wilmington station was modest — just 57 people get on and 85 people get off.

The construction of the new platform, however, will also contribute to solving the problem of trains blocking Route 62/Middlesex Avenue and slowing down emergency vehicles.

“Your delegation great to work with. They’re fierce advocates fighting for your community up on Beacon Hill,” Donahue-Rodgriuez told Selectmen.

State Senator Bruce Tarr, State Representative Ken Gordon, and State Representative Dave Robertson were all on the Zoom call to offer comments.

“This is good news. It’s unfortunate we got set back by the pandemic… but we look forward to this project moving forward,” said Senator Tarr, who praised the innovation of the MBTA for creating the platform by recycling former sections of a bridge in Boston. Tarr was happy to see the state funding he, Robertson & Gordon helped secure remained intact for another fiscal year. He also encouraged the town to coordinate with Princeton Properties, which is building a 108-unit apartment complex across the street from the station, to maximize the improvements being made to the overall area.

Representative Ken Gordon asked if as much work on the project as possible could be done while ridership is down due to the pandemic rather than waiting to Spring 2021 at the earliest. Far fewer riders would be inconvenience in the fall than the spring.

Donahue-Rodgriuez told Gordon that the MBTA’s models don’t expect ridership to bounce back for awhile and, while the MBTA was able to excel a recent project on the south shore, it’s unlikely to happy on this project as “so much goes into construction projects.”

“This [project] is still on our radar… It will be an important thing in that part of town with 911 calls being held up… I, too, would like to see this before Spring 2021, but I understand the circumstances,” said Representative Dave Robertson. “Hopefully quite soon we’ll be standing there with shovels in the ground for the groundbreaking and eventually a ribbon cutting.”

Selectmen welcomed the update given all the financial uncertainty in the state and country at the moment due to COVID-19.

“I’m grateful to our delegation,” said Selectman Greg Bendel. “I look forward to the Spring of 2021…. This is very good news.”

Selectman Kevin Caira asked that the board be provided with a schematic design of the project. Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony noted she likes how old parts of Boston are being brought to Wilmington to build the new platform.

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