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MBTA bridge crumbling in downtown Lynn

Francisco Meneses of Somerville, who owns a swath of storefronts underneath the MBTA train tracks along Mt. Vernon Street in Lynn, is in the midst of a court battle with the MBTA. (Spenser Hasak)

LYNN — City inspectors closed the properties underneath the Mt. Vernon Street MBTA bridge Thursday morning, according to no trespassing signs posted on the doors of the businesses underneath the bridge, after an inspection allegedly revealed column rot, falling chunks of concrete, gaps in the bridge that reveal skylight, and enough water damage to form stalagmite crystals.

MBTA officials, along with engineers and city inspectors, gathered on Mt. Vernon Street to inspect the properties underneath the MBTA commuter line bridge. 

Fire Escape Engineer and business owner Francisco Meneses said that he was actually glad to see his storefronts, comprising nearly two thirds of the building, close.

Meneses said that since he bought the properties in 2001, he has repeatedly asked the MBTA to fix their bridge, which Meneses said leaked water and resulted in rocks falling into his stores.

“Those three reports from the past say ‘it’s fine. It looks rusty, but this thing has so much redundancy, there’s no way this thing will ever die.’ Then take my sticker off so I can go back to doing business. Otherwise, it’s not safe enough for this train that’s about to go over me either,” Meneses said. “If I can’t go under then you can’t go over.”

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said repairs on the bridge were set to begin Thursday evening.

“After consulting with the City of Lynn’s Building Inspector, the MBTA is installing protective shielding above the sidewalks before beginning repair work on the bridge deck.  Crews are set to start this work tonight,” he said.

Meneses wants to rebuild the now-vacant properties into stores, bars, and restaurants for the community, as part of a larger plan to redevelop the neighborhood. He said that the MBTA neglected the bridge above despite reports from private engineering companies that concluded the purple line bridge was in need of repair.

“I have a report from them that essentially said ‘this is a trainwreck and the MBTA should put a lot of attention to it.’ I sent a copy to the city, but it fell on deaf ears. That was probably around 2005 or so,” Meneses said. “This structure above me is unsafe … and if the City of Lynn says it’s unsafe for me to be underneath here, do you think it’s safe for the people who traverse it?” 

Because of falling cement blocks and other hazards for pedestrians, the city will build scaffolding underneath the bridge on Silsbee Street, according to Meneses’ lawyer, David L’Esperance. 

L’Esperance, said that although he’s unsure of what the MBTA’s next steps will be, he is grateful to the MBTA’s inspectors, as well as Lynn’s Chief of Inspectional Services Michael Donovan, and the MBTA’s attorney David Gorman.

“It was dangerous, there were holes in the cement. That, to me, is very significant,” L’Esperance said. “I can say that I’m very complimentary toward the MBTA staff that came in today. I want to thank them, as well as Attorney Dave Gorman who came down in an effort to rectify some of these problems.”

L’Esperance also said that thanks to Gorman, today’s inspection marks the first time the MBTA dedicated time toward the issue.

“My client has been on-and-off battling with the MBTA for about 20 years now. He purchased the property, and they haven’t responded in time to fix anything until today. That is at the complimentary direction of attorney Gorman,” L’Esperance said. “There’s problems down there, and I know the city’s not going to take care of them, and move forward as well.”

Meneses said that he thinks the dire condition of the bridge not only puts his business at risk, but commuters.

“If I can’t stay under it, and work, and earn my income, how can people, thousands of people, safely traverse this bridge? Or should they be cautious and close it off at Swampscott, and bus everyone around this bridge until we find out what’s going on? That seems safe,” Meneses said.

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at anthony@itemlive.com.

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