SHIRLEY -- The Massachusetts Transit Authority created a small parking lot with 25 spaces at the train station in Shirley Village some time ago and now pays for maintaining that number but no more, including plowing to clear the spaces of snow in the winter.
MTA has tenaciously stuck to that 25-spot total, despite evidence that it's woefully inadequate now that commuter rail parking has increased substantially.
Some of the added traffic can likely be blamed on a temporary, partial shutdown of the Leominster train station lot while a parking garage was under construction. Although the project is nearly complete, the garage isn't open yet and the exodus continues.
Selectmen have opined that even when it's open, commuters may still come to Shirley, since there will be a charge to park in the Leominster garage but parking here is free.
As many as 140 commuter cars have been counted parked in the train station lot and along Ayer Road as far as Bemis Company, according to Richard Hatch, who represents the town on the Montachusett Area Regional Transit (MART) board.
But even though DPW Foreman Paul Farrar consistently plows well past the parking lot and along Ayer Road to accommodate the overflow, state authorities continue to resist expanding beyond the original 25 spaces.
Selectmen Chairwoman Kendra Dumont said Monday night there might be another way to tackle the problem. If the state agrees, the town could charge parking fees, she said, as other towns and cities along the Fitchburg rail line already do, raising enough revenue to at least cover extra plowing.
Town Administrator Patrice Garvin has been meeting with MART and MTA officials to that end.