Chairman Wagner, Chairman Baddour and members of the Committee, I wish to submit testimony to you in support of H. 33255, An Act Improving Commuter Rail Stations in the City of Newton. For the last several sessions, I have filed this legislation, which would require the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) to make the three commuter rail stations in Newton handicap accessible.
Some years ago, a group of my constituents brought to my attention that none of the three commuter rail stations in the City of Newton are handicap accessible. The Auburndale, West Newton and Newtonville stations are all accessed by dangerously steep staircases which become even more hazardous in the winter when they are covered with snow and ice. The closest fully accessible station on the Framingham/Worcester commuter line into downtown Boston is West Natick, a 25 minute drive from Newton. Individuals wishing to use the commuter rail who are disabled, elderly, or traveling with small children are unable to take advantage of this important piece of the public transportation infrastructure because it is not handicap accessible.
It is unfair and unacceptable that these three stations have not been updated to accommodate all train passengers. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act ordered all public transportation systems be accessible to people with disabilities. In response to a recent law suit against the MBTA, substantial changes are now being made to make subway and bus lines handicap accessible. While there are some plans to renovate a couple commuter rail stations, the commuter rail was not included within the law suit’s settlement, and no comprehensive system-wide plan to enhance accessibility on these rails has been established. Nineteen years have passed since the ADA was enacted into law and the three stations in my district are still not handicap accessible.
I have begun to address the lack of disability access to the commuter rail in Newton through discussions with neighborhood residents, officials from the City of Newton, the MBTA, and the Massachusetts Office on Disability. I have also been working with Congressman Barney Frank, for many years, who has been able to secure some federal funds to begin the process of making the Auburndale commuter rail station handicap accessible, but without additional funding the Auburndale station accessibility project will not be completed. The passage of H.3255 will make it significantly easier to acquire the additional funding to finish this project and make the necessary improvements to the other commuter rail stations in Newton.
I respectfully urge the members of the Committee to help in making these three train stations accessible to all commuter rail passengers by reporting H. 3255favorably as expeditiously as possible. Thank you very much for your consideration of this important legislation.