The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will hold an Oct. 13 public meeting on a proposal to improve accessibility at Newton’s three commuter rail stations, plus build two raised platforms at each station to accommodate service in both directions, officials said.
The commuter rail stations in Auburndale, West Newton, and Newtonville serve passengers traveling eastbound and westbound on the MBTA’s Framingham/Worcester Line, and parallels the Massachusetts Turnpike through the city.
But the existing single-platform stations can only be reached by long stairways from nearby bridges over the highway, making them inaccessible for many people with mobility issues. The station’s single platforms also prevent passengers from boarding inbound and outbound trains simultaneously.
In a statement, MBTA officials said that General Manager Steve Poftak made a commitment to Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller for a two-platform design for the stations earlier this summer.
The new design replaces an earlier plan for upgraded single-platform stations. That original single-side design concept would not support “high frequency bi-directional service goals,” the MBTA statement said.
“The updated stations will be fully accessible. Both platforms will have two accessible means of access. The designs incorporate accessible access to the station for pedestrians, parking, drop-off, and The Ride,” according to the MBTA.
The MBTA is currently revising its plans to incorporate two platforms at each station, and will be preparing estimated costs for design and for construction in the “near future,” the agency said. Construction would take about five years.
A virtual public meeting on the project for Newton’s commuter rail stations is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m., according to the MBTA. More information about the upcoming meeting is available at mbta.com.
The design concepts will be presented during the meeting, and will be followed by a question and answer session, according to the MBTA. Comments, questions, and concerns can be e-mailed to NewtonCR@mbta.com. Anyone interested in accessibility accommodations can reach out to the project through its e-mail or by calling (617) 651-1363. The upcoming meeting will also be recorded and available online.
At the Auburndale station, the accessibility improvements would include a sloped walkway to the Auburn Street parking lot, sidewalk, and the area for picking up and dropping off passengers, according to the MBTA. A ramp connection also would be added between the Auburn Street Bridge and the station.
The West Newton station’s upgrades would include an elevator, ramp, and stair connections between the station and the Washington Street parking lot and passenger drop-off and pick-up area, according to the MBTA. There also would be elevator and stair connections between the Washington Street sidewalk and the station.
A sloped walkway pedestrian underpass also would connect the West Newton station to the Webster Street parking lot.
In Newtonville, the station would receive elevator and stair connections from the Washington Street sidewalk and the pick-up/drop-off area to the station, the MBTA said.
All three stations would receive elevator and stair connections between the platforms at each station, according to the MBTA.
The upgrades were reported by Streets Blog Mass Sept. 24.
Acting MassDOT Secretary Jamey Tesler and Poftak committed to funding designs for the upgraded stations during a June meeting with Newton elected officials, Fuller said in a statement.
Fuller said the proposed designs would make all three stations fully accessible, and would build platforms that would allow for frequent, all-day service in both directions.
Fuller said state Representative Kay Khan has been a persistent advocate for these upgrades for years. She also credited the work of US Representative Jake Auchincloss and state Senator Cindy Creem, as well as Ward 2 City Council members Emily Norton and Susan Albright, the council president.
“It’s exciting to have this ‘green light,’ even knowing we still have a long way to go [nailing down the funding for the construction and living through the years of work],” Fuller said.
All three of Newton’s commuter rail stations are in the heart of village centers, the mayor noted.
“The City of Newton, the City Council, businesses, and the community are working with our Planning team right now on how these vital areas can be vibrant and thriving in the decades ahead,” Fuller said. “We know there is a critical link between commuter rail transit, housing, economic development, and climate change as we plan for the future.”
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.