Connecticut commuters are three days away from the long-anticipated launch of the state’s new commuter rail line, which offers Connecticut service from New Haven to Hartford, with some service to Springfield, Mass.
“The main thing we need is more public transportation in the state, absolutely, there’s too many cars on the road,” Rachel Wizner of New Haven told NBC Connecticut Wednesday at Union Station.
But when the Hartford Line trains start running this weekend, passengers will only have access to restrooms on about half of the trains.
Restrooms will be accessible on the trains operated by Amtrak, but the restrooms on older rail cars the state Department of Transportation is leasing from Massachusetts are not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Following a complaint from Disability Rights Connecticut, the Federal Railroad Administration found restrooms on the 30-year-old rail cars from the MassDOT do not meet federal standards.
“How can you begin a bright new transportation era while treating people with disabilities like second class citizens?” Disability Rights Connecticut Executive Director Gretchen Knauff said in a press release.
NBC Connecticut wanted to know how those trains could have been in service in Massachusetts.
“Because the ADA law was passed in the early 1990s, many of those cars that are still in service throughout the country predate the Americans With Disabilities Act,” CT DOT Public Transportation Chief Rich Andreski said.
The DOT hopes to have the bathrooms retro-fitted to meet ADA regulations by early next year, Andreski said.
“We don’t love the idea of not having fully accessible restrooms on the first day, but it was something that we were committed to renovating those rail cars,” Andreski said.
While there have been major overhauls to stations between New Haven and Hartford, additional improvements on the rail line are planned north of the Capital City.
“We have plans to build new stations at Windsor, Windsor Locks and Enfield, and those are in the engineering stages at this point,” Andreski said.
The DOT is offering free rides on the Hartford Line this Saturday and Sunday. After that, a one-way trip from New Haven to Hartford will cost $8.