By Jeannette Hinkle
THE ISSUE: Melrose residents have voiced complaints about the condition of Banks Place, the road most residents use to access Oak Grove station. The MBTA said it has committed to repairing the road this year. WHY IT MATTERS: Residents who walk, bike or drive to the city’s subway station will be impacted by the repairs.
Rep. Paul Brodeur, D-Melrose, walked down Banks Place’s puddled sidewalk on Wednesday morning, March 29 flanked by city employees, MBTA officials, representatives from Sen. Jason Lewis’s office and a few concerned citizens.
The group was there to examine the current state of the road most Melrosians use to access Oak Grove station, and talk about what can be done to fix it.
“There is no question the road is in crappy shape,” Brodeur said, gesturing to a section of Banks Place particularly pockmarked by potholes.
Banks Place is under MBTA control, but Melrose city employees have fielded multiple calls about the road’s condition from residents recently – calls they’ve been forwarding to the area’s state legislators.
“It is an issue in the last six months that we’ve gotten a lot of calls on,” said Mike Lindstrom, chief of staff for Mayor Rob Dolan. “You can clearly see the MBTA has failed to maintain this property over the years. In a situation like this, we work through our state delegation because they have direct communications with the MBTA.”
Brodeur, who organized the visit to Banks Place on Wednesday, called the condition of the road “unacceptable.”
“This is the last stop going north so it draws folks from all over,” Brodeur said of Oak Grove. “Recognizing constraints, we want to make it as safe as we possibly can. That’s not the case right now.”
MBTA representative Lisa Battiston told the Free Press Banks Place repairs will soon be underway.
Battiston said “immediate actions” include the placement of a plate over a structure at a northerly bridge and fixing potholes as needed. More comprehensive roadwork should be finished this year, she added.
“Nitch Engineering has been hired to assess the road and develop a re-pavement plan with the entire road planned to be completely repaved/rebuilt by the fall,” Battiston wrote in an email.
On Monday, Battiston said concerns about contractor-owned vehicles parked on the sidewalk of Banks Place, forcing bikes to ride in the street, have now been addressed.
“Parking space accommodations for the vehicles are being determined and coordinated with the parking department,” Battiston wrote. “Parking signage is now being produced to be installed in order to designate the spaces accordingly. The parking area will be cordoned off until signs are posted.”
For Melrose resident Matt Wallace, the contractor vehicles were an ongoing safety concern. Wallace was seriously injured recently when his bicycle clipped the side mirror of one of the contractor vehicles, causing him to flip over his handlebars.
“With the conditions of the road, the people parked as such, the narrowness of the road and competing traffic, really all those risks came together and caused this incident,” Wallace said.
Wallace landed on his head and shoulder and was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital via ambulance, where he was told he’d separated his shoulder.
“It was a Grade III AC joint separation, which is a permanent deformity,” Wallace said. “Fortunately, nothing was broken and I didn’t have a concussion.”
Wallace is now in physical therapy, he wears a sling, and he’s taking the bus. He said he’s “pleasantly surprised” by the actions taken by MBTA this past week.
“I am pretty pleased with the response taken,” Wallace said. “Those [contractor vehicles] really shouldn’t be there. It’s not safe for pedestrians or bicyclists.”
Brodeur thanked MBTA officials for attending the site visit.
“The good news is, it’s in the works,” Brodeur said. “I think it’s important to let the community know that nothing goes as fast as folks want, but this is going to be fixed.