AYER -- The town will receive a possible solution to the commuter rail access issue in the coming weeks, as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority awaits a proposal from private property owner Phil Berry.
In a meeting last week, Mark Boyle from the MBTA told various officials that the MBTA is expecting a proposal from Berry, according to a town-wide email alert sent out Monday.
"The MBTA, at the request of the town, has ensured the town the resolution to the access issue will meet the federal and state requirements for the Ayer Commuter Rail Surface Parking Lot project," the statement reads.
Berry's future proposal is the latest update regarding the issue of finding an accessible pedestrian path across Berry's property to the commuter station.
The town received $3.2 million from the FTA for the project of expanding the commuter parking lot, but can not use the money until there is a clearly marked pedestrian path from the lot to the station.
Although initially a cause for concern when the fence issue arose, the funds are not in danger of expiring, Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand has said.
Pontbriand said last week's meeting was well attended.
Representatives from the town, MART, the MBTA, local legislators and more people came together for the update.
"Everybody is on the same page that the resolution will allow the project to move forward," Pontbriand said.
Berry could not be reached for comment.
State Rep. Sheila Harrington, who attended the meeting, said she is interested to hear Berry's proposal.
"I am committed to continue working with Mr. Berry and local and state officials to find a solution to this issue that benefits the people of Ayer and the surrounding towns, as soon as possible," she said in an email.
Selectman Chris Hillman, who also attended the meeting, said it was a very candid discussion of scenarios.
"Boyle was very open and candid about what they can do, can't do, will do," he said. "I was happy with that, there was no dodging any questions."
The proposed parking lot expansion would also require the town's acquisition of a few land parcels along Park Street, including two that Berry owns, The Public Spirit reported earlier.
Berry surprised the town when he put up a fence around the outskirts of his property at Depot Square in April, fielding foot traffic around his property instead of through it.
Bruno Fisher, MART's deputy administrator, said at the time that the MBTA, MART and the town had been working with Berry on establishing safe access for about a year.
After negotiations, a portion of the fence was later taken down so that commuters could once again walk through his property.
MART has claimed that Berry's deed to the property requires him to provide a building for passengers that includes restrooms, a waiting area and a ticket office.
Last month, citizens sent a petition to Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey and MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott, urging them to make Berry comply with the deed requirements.
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