AYER -- The town could hear a possible solution to the commuter rail access problem in the coming weeks, as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority awaits a proposal.

In a meeting last week, Mark Boyle from the MBTA told various officials in attendance that the MBTA is expecting a proposal from private property owner Phil Berry.

The town received a $3.2 million earmark from the Federal Transit Authority for the project of expanding commuter parking, but cannot use the money until there is a clearly marked pedestrian path from the lot to the station.

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. Although initially a concern when the fence arose, Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand has said that the funding is not at risk of expiring.

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.


Advertisement

Pontbriand said last week's meeting was well attended. It was not an open public meeting, he explained, because there was no quorum of a public body in attendance.

But he said it was not an attempt to exclude the public, as all information discussed has been made public.

Representatives from the town, MART, MBTA, local legislators and some residents came together for the update.

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 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 could not be reached for comment.