Frustrations mount over conditions at Canton Junction

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After a winter of discontent marred by constant delays, cancellations, and historic snowfall totals, patrons of the MBTA’s Canton Junction commuter rail station have run out of patience and are starting to speak up about the conditions and level of service at the aging railroad stop.

A staircase leading to the Canton Junction bridge

A staircase leading to the Canton Junction bridge

While the railway service itself has predictably improved throughout the warm weather months, riders continue to be concerned about the infrastructure at Canton Junction — particularly the steel and concrete bridge that connects the station’s platforms to one another. Additionally, the station building, which sold coffee and train tickets and provided shelter during inclement weather, was closed in February when the operator passed away and has yet to reopen nearly six months later.

Maureen O’Brien, a Canton resident who commutes from Canton Junction to her job in Cambridge, said she has contacted the MBTA — as well as the contractor that operates the commuter rail, Keolis Commuter Services — on multiple occasions to voice her concerns about the condition of the bridge structure, which has several staircases and ramps that are covered in rust and show visible signs of rot.

O’Brien said at times they have been responsive — even sending someone out to make temporary repairs at her request. However, some of those temporary fixes have already started to fail, including a gap that has once again opened up between the bridge and the staircase leading to platform D.

“It doesn’t look safe,” she said of the roughly two-inch gap, which was patched with a foam material. “It’s not too wide, but it’s wide enough where your keys could fall through it or your phone, or someone could trip on it.”

O’Brien said she and other riders have also noticed pieces of concrete and rust falling down, adding that the past winter seems to have really done a number on the aging structure.

Mac Daniel, a spokesman for Keolis CS, confirmed to the Citizen via email that the company is in fact responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the bridge. And while he declined to provide any specifics, he stressed that “repairs to the stairs and other structures will soon be submitted as a capital project.”

Based in Paris, Keolis is currently in the second year of an eight-year contract with the MBTA and also operates railway and commuter services in Virginia, Florida, and California. This past winter, the company was fined more than $400,000 by the MBTA for perpetual lateness and subsequently apologized to commuter rail customers in a full-page ad in the Boston Globe.

The MBTA, meanwhile, has also come under fire for operational and management deficiencies and underwent a shakeup this spring at the hands of Governor Charlie Baker’s administration. The beleaguered agency will now cede authority to a Fiscal Management and Control Board and will be aided by a new $83.7 million Winter Resiliency Plan that the governor unveiled in June.

Whether any of these changes will have an impact on MBTA riders’ day-to-day experiences is still to be determined; however, O’Brien said she and her fellow riders in Canton certainly expect more for the fares that they pay.

“It felt like a perfect storm this winter, and now tempers are short, and now it’s even looking unsafe,” said O’Brien. “It’s really a bunch of factors simultaneously and it doesn’t seem like anybody’s at the wheel.”

Regarding the safety concerns at Canton Junction, Selectmen Chairman John Connolly said there is little that the town of Canton can do because the property is owned and operated by the state. However, he recently asked town Building Commissioner Ed Walsh to take a look at the structure and communicate any concerns with Keolis.

“I’ve asked [Walsh] to get a letter out to Keolis to get someone over there to inspect it as soon as possible to make sure that it’s safe,” said Connolly. “Because safety is obviously paramount, and even though it is not our property, it is still our residents and our people who use it.”

As for the closure of the station, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said via email that a new vendor “should be in place by September or October.”

Yet O’Brien said she and other riders wonder why it has taken this long.

“It’s frustrating,” she acknowledged. “Not only did we get lousy [commuter rail] service, but the station isn’t even open. On top of that, fares have gone up — it now costs me $23 a day to get from Canton to my office in Cambridge.”

“Something is definitely broken, and I don’t think it should be up to the commuters to fix it,” she said.

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