Project Team Unveils Plans for Upgraded Back Bay T Station Concourse and Ventilation System

By Dan Murphy

The project team unveiled the latest plans for the renovated concourse and ventilation system of the redeveloped MBTA Back Bay station on Monday night during a presentation at the state’s Transportation Building.

Boston Properties, which assumed control of the concourse in August of 2015, will manage and renovate it as part of the firm’s proposed $1 billion transformation of the T station and surrounding city block.

James Batchelor, a consultant from the Boston architecture and design firm Arrowstreet, said one of the project goals is to covert the station into an “airport-quality transportation hub.”

To make the Dartmouth Street entrance more welcoming, its entries would be relocated centrally and the number of entry doors would be doubled. Improvements would also be made to the surrounding streetscape and pedestrian environment, Batchelor said.

Inside the station, a centrally located waiting area with additional seating would accommodate travelers and an increased number of fare gates would allow improved access to Orange Line trains.

Batchelor said a renovation of the station’s restrooms would hopefully get underway in the next few months.

David Newman, consultant from the Holyoke engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald, outlined plans to improve the station’s ventilation system in an effort to mitigate the current air-quality problem at the concourse level and improve air quality at the platform level.

Newman said the existing ventilation system was no longer functional and inadequate for the train volume, which includes diesel lines operated by Amtrak within the building.

To help remedy the problems, components of the three existing fans and two existing air-intake structures would be repaired, and the stairs between the platform and concourse levels would be pressurized to mitigate diesel exhaust to the concourse level. Jet fans would also be installed in the Southwest Corridor tunnel to draw fresh air through the platform.

Work to pressurize the stairs is slated to begin in the middle of next year and last through mid-2018, while rehabilitation of the ventilation system is set to begin in this spring and conclude in the spring of 2019, Newman said.

State Rep. Byron Rushing, who was in attendance, along Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Jay Livingstone, urged citizens to participate in the public process for the new Back Bay station, as they did during the design phase for the existing station in the ‘80s.  “Good things come from community involvement and we need to get back to that tradition,” Rushing said.

“This is an opportunity to speak up and be heard,” Livingstone added.

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