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Newton misses out on $136 million in funding for MBTA commuter rail stations’ accessibility upgrades

The existing single-platform Newtonville commuter rail station can only be reached by a long stairway from a nearby bridge over the Mass. Turnpike -- making it inaccessible for many people with mobility issues.LESLIE ANDERSON

Newton officials learned Tuesday that a sweeping plan to improve accessibility at Newton’s three MBTA commuter rail stations was dealt a setback, after the state transit agency’s projects missed out on up to $136 million in federal funding, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said in a statement.

“This is disappointing news for the people of Newton and beyond who rely on the Framingham/Worcester commuter rail line,” Fuller said. “The news is a particular blow to people with disabilities as these three stations are impossible for people with physical disabilities to access due to numerous, steep stairs.”

The aging stations at Auburndale, West Newton, and Newtonville have long drawn ire from city leaders and advocates for people living with disabilities. The platforms are reached by descending long stairways, which make them inaccessible to people with mobility issues.


And the stations each have a single platform, which prevents passengers from being able to board eastbound and westbound trains simultaneously.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has fully funded design work for all three stations, and construction was expected to cost $170 million, according to Fuller. The upgrades would have installed two raised platforms at each station, plus elevators, and accessible pathways to each station.

MBTA officials had applied for a federal All Stations Accessibility Program grant to fund up to 80 percent of the construction cost, Fuller said.

The upgraded stations would be “a gamechanger” for commuters living or working in Newton, she said. They would also improve the frequency, accessibility, and reliability of train service along the Framingham/Worcester line, which passes through Newton along the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Fuller said she will also work with the MBTA and Governor-elect Maura Healey’s administration to secure funding for the projects.

Fuller said US Representative Jake Auchincloss, a former Newton city councilor, is working to include $7 million to help pay for the stations’ construction in the federal omnibus appropriations bill being considered by Congress this week.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.