AYER -- Parties in the downtown commuter station dispute are one step closer to finding a possible resolution, Rep. Sheila Harrington said on Friday.

For months, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has been trying to negotiate a deal with private property owner Phil Berry to find an appropriate pedestrian path to Ayer's commuter station.

The path is critical to the town's plan for an expanded commuter rail parking lot by Main Street, which received $3.2 million in funds that cannot be released until there is a visible pedestrian walkway from the parking lot to the station.

The issue was thrown into the spotlight in April, when Berry put up a fence around the outskirts of his property at Depot Square, across which commuters typically walk to get to the station.

Berry's lawyer Roy Pastor said Berry had been trying to negotiate a pathway for the past 10 years. State and local authorities sprung into action after the fence drew outrage from Ayer commuters.

Harrington said she met with representatives from the town, the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, the MBTA and Berry on Thursday, Aug. 14.

"It went really well. I think we've come up with the optimal Plan A but there are a few things that need to be checked out on the side of the MBTA," she said. "They have to just check one thing to really see if that can work but we're going to keep our fingers crossed."

Harrington said the group also identified a possible Plan B, but it may take a little bit more work.


She could not say what the issues at hand are, but said one option is a plan that Berry proposed.

Berry had submitted two proposals for a path. One path would run from the parking lot down near Town Hall, where pedestrians would cross Main Street and walk behind a line of Berry's properties on the other side adjacent to the railroad track.

The second would create a 24-foot driveway across from the parking lot and would feature a 10-foot pedestrian path. The driveway would have a turnaround drop-off area.

"We're really down to just using one of them," Harrington said. "One of them fits the bill more than the other."

She said the group is hoping to hear within the next couple of weeks whether the plan will be possible.

"I think everybody who was there was really committed to find the best solution, and if it doesn't work, it's only because of something we have no control over," she said.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email that the MBTA is reviewing Berry's proposals.

Pastor has claimed that the MBTA wants to avoid triggering a review for the project's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the act, projects developed to a certain extent must be made handicapped-accessible.

But Pesaturo has said that this is not an issue for the MBTA in negotiating a path.

"This has nothing to do with upgrading the station," he said. "This matter is about access to and from the station."

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