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(rshsdepot) Mansfield, MA


 The Boston Globe
 February 6, 2003, Thursday  ,THIRD EDITION

The busy commuter rail station in downtown Mansfield is about to get a $1.5
million makeover.

A joint project involving two regional transportation agencies and the town
of Mansfield involves replacing the station building that has served as a
passenger waiting area since 1954. The new structure will be about twice as
large as the old one, with space for a food vendor, a community meeting
room, and possibly a dry cleaning service.

The train platforms are to be raised to make the trains handicapped
accessible, and some parking areas and surrounding streets will be
Work is scheduled to start this month. The town, the Massachusetts Bay
Transportation Authority, and the Greater Attleboro-Taunton Regional
Transportation Authority planned the construction, which is being funded by
state and federal transportation agencies.

For MBTA commuter rail users, the bad news is that the severe parking crunch
that has plagued the station area for years will be no better when the work
is completed, about the end of this year.

Officials have been trying to devise a plan to expand parking, but it is not
ready to be implemented yet.

"In this phase there will be no additional parking," said Carol Gill,
capital program manager for the Greater Attleboro Taunton Transportation

According to the MBTA's most recent count, about 1,700 people use the
station daily, up from 1,450 a decade ago. There are legal parking spaces
for about half the riders. Although some commuters walk to the station and
others are dropped off, most compete for the limited spaces, and the lots
are usually full by 7 a.m.

GATRA has tried to ease the parking problems by running shuttle buses from
Norton and Mansfield to the station. The agency recently began subsidizing a
local taxi service, which offers $2 rides to the station for Mansfield

The station has long been viewed as a mixed blessing in Mansfield. It
provides residents with fast, convenient service to Boston and Providence.
It also brings hundreds of out-of-towners into the center of town every

"There are two schools of thought on the station," said Selectman Michael
McCue. "It brings in people from outside of town who frequent downtown

Of course the opposite view is all of the traffic problems it creates."

In the past, the town has debated moving the station, but the decision has
always been to keep it where it is and try to improve it.

An antique clock, formerly located in Mansfield Town Hall will be moved to
the station. Town officials hope that the meeting room will be used for
community functions.

"We hope the public uses the building for more than just a train station,"
said Mansfield Selectman David McCarter. "We think the station will give
people a positive image of the town."

McCarter said the town and the transportation agencies will continue to try
to resolve the parking and traffic problems. Other towns can help, too,
according to McCarter, who would like officials in neighboring Foxborough to
open up County Street as an access road to new station parking lots in

"Mansfield has had a train station since the 1800s," McCarter said. "We have
to learn how to deal with it. It's not going to go away."

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org