Perils at Park Street

1199730711While doing my weekend rounds downtown, I found myself suddenly seized with dread. I was mounting the stairs at Park Street Station (in the headhouse closest to the Common), and it felt for a moment like I was walking on piano keys. I took a few steps back and looked at the stairs.

Many were rotten, rusted, sagging, seemingly on the verge of collapsing like a Minneapolis bridge, and taking a couple dozen unsuspecting tourists and commuters down into whatever bottomless hole lies beneath them. The next day, two of the three lanes were roped off. I asked a guy walking up the stairs next to me whether he thought they seemed to be falling apart even faster than normal and he laughed, “I know, where’s the elevator, right?”

I was back Friday, and while the ropes were gone, things still looked grim. Random pieces of sheet metal were holding up some stairs, and another had just been crudely replaced with a piece of salvaged wood, painted red. A gaping hole had opened up between one of the handrails and a step.

I called the T to see whether we should expect the stairway to complete its decline (no doubt in a spectacular asbestos and rust shower extracting significant carnage), and they reassured me they’re on the case, though the work is in the early stages. The bidding for the repair job will be completed in 4-6 weeks.

“The stair stingers are in reasonable condition, some treads need to be repaired,” says spokesman Joe Pesaturo, in an email. “Treads were shored up from below as a precautionary measure last month. Recently, some sections were temporarily closed to pedestrians until immediate repairs could be made. Starting on Sunday night, and continuing for 4 to 5 nights until complete, a contractor will remove deteriorated tread materials from 21 treads that have been identified as requiring repair, and will construct new treads secured to the shoring… At this time, the stairs are in full use and we are not aware of anyone tripping or falling as a direct result of the condition of the stairs.”

Not yet! Still, the escalators and elevator may see a bit more action in the months ahead, until this gets squared away.

“It is anticipated,” he says, “that it will take 6 to 8 weeks from demolition of the stairs to completion of installation. The replacement work will begin after the project is advertised, bids are received, and a contract is awarded.”