America / ARTICLES

The Boston Globe: “The weather inside is drizzle”

On those post-storm days, when snowmelt mixes with rain to force pedestrians to leap over puddles and slush, the ceiling of the three-year-old, $111 million North Station subway is a particularly unwelcome sight.

Two years after the Globe published a story about leaks in the North Station T, water is again dripping into plastic buckets, garbage cans, and wet towels around them. The MBTA says the new leaks are due to plywood and tarpaulin that are temporarily covering skylights near the station’s elevators. Those temporary coverings are expected to be in place for the next six to eight months.

According to T spokesman Joe Pesaturo, Dimeo Construction Co., which is building a 10-story apartment and retail complex directly above the Green Line and Orange Line station, covered the skylights in the station’s head houses (entrances) with tarps – which have let in some precipitation. The station adapted to the drips with white buckets, orange cones, and yellow-and-black caution signs featuring a picture of a person in midfall, and stating the obvious: “slippery when wet.”

“There are absolutely no structural problems with the station. The water issues are the direct result of construction activity above (and adjacent to) the station,” Pesaturo wrote in an e-mail.

Pesaturo added that “the MBTA is benefiting greatly” from the construction project and that “the developer is paying the MBTA millions of dollars.”

According to Doug Peckham, senior project manager for Dimeo Construction, when the Avenir apartment building opens in the summer of 2009, people will enter and exit the subway station from head houses that will be contained within the first floor of the structure – although they will not be able to enter the apartment building without going outside.

The skylights in each of the six head houses will be replaced with a metal roof, with the second floor of the complex located above that roof.

“You won’t see little separate structures that stick out above the ground. It will be a cleaner look,” Peckham said.

He explained that recent snowstorms that brought “40-mile-per-hour winds and 20 inches of snow that fell within a week’s time” caused temporary leaks.

A “piece of plastic envelops the roof structure,” he said. “It can get a little ripped or torn like in any construction project. Snow, ice, and water accumulate on top of the temporary roof construction.”

Meanwhile, buckets have been left in place in case of future storms.

“We keep those there because we’ve identified where the major leaks are. If another storm occurs we have a bucket there to address the situation,” he said.

Five of the six North Station head houses had their facades and skylights replaced with temporary materials, while the skylight from the last head house, on Causeway Street, will be removed in the next two weeks, Peckham said. The station’s head houses “will have some sort of finished structure” in the next six to eight months, he said.

Whatever the cause of the leaks, many Boston commuters aren’t surprised, and some said they are happy with the new station even if the roof leaks.

One commuter said the new station is much nicer than the dark and foul-smelling stations that he was used to when he was growing up in Boston. “I’m 54; I used the system as a child,” said Tom Folan, a financial adviser from Westwood. “This is much nicer than I am accustomed to.”

Joe Farrenkopf, a young man who had time for a short comment before the Orange Line train arrived, had a different opinion.

“It’s a brand-new station,” he said.

“It shouldn’t be leaking.”

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