AYER — After two decades of fundraising and development, the Ayer Commuter Rail parking facility had its grand opening ceremony Monday morning.
Town and state officials were present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, officially opening the $5 million, two-level parking garage at 3 Groton St.
The 180-space garage offers additional parking to commuters who use the Fitchburg rail line for transit and is also meant to free up parking spaces in town, allowing for more residents and visiting patrons to shop in the downtown area.
Parking will be $4 Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but will be free on nights, weekends and holidays.
Seventeen of the spaces will be dedicated to those looking to access the Nashua River Rail Trail in town.
The grand opening was hosted by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority and Ayer Town Manager Robert Pontbriand, who thanked multiple local officials including the Board of Selectmen and Department of Public Works Superintendent Mark Wetzel. He also thanked the Hutter Construction Corp. of New Ipswich, N.H., which completed the building of the garage in seven months.
“We are very excited and very pleased,” he said. “When I came to Ayer just about nine years ago, the funding for this was in jeopardy. It’s been a great project, we’re very pleased to see something come to fruition. It’s a true benefit to the whole community but also a testament to perseverance.”
Other attendees at the event included Rep. Jennifer Benson, MART Administrator Mohammed Khan and Sen. Jamie Eldridge.
The latter secured a MassWorks grant for $250,000 in 2012 and recently advocated with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for a $1 million grant, both for the garage.
“The biggest benefit is for commuters getting into Cambridge or Boston,” Eldridge said. “I’ve heard from constituents time after time that other commuter stations they go to are full by 7 a.m. So this will be an option for people, including those west of here.”
Also in attendance was U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, who also helped secure funding for the parking facility.
“Ayer is a town that is so committed to their local economic development,” she said. “They’ve got so many people who are locating here to raise their families and who are going to commute to the cities to work. Getting those cars off the road, providing convenience to those families and being a part of this unbelievable development that Ayer is invested in is exciting.”
Pontbriand said the garage is the first phase of the town’s “comprehensive vision,” as a “21st century rail town.” He explained that the next phase will be work on Depot Square, where the commuter rail station is located. Additions to the station include a public bathroom, handicap parking, improved lighting and a park. Pontbriand said the work on Depot Square is expected to start in spring 2020.