New rail line ready to go; half with locked re­strooms

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - NEWS - By Jim Shay

If you’re plan­ning to use the new Hartford Rail Line that be­gins oper­a­tion this week­end, you might want to take a bath­room break be­fore board­ing.

That’s be­cause the re­strooms on half of the train cars will be locked. The rea­son? The older rail cars are not com­pli­ant with Amer­i­cans With Dis­abil­i­ties Act.

Ser­vice on the line — which will of­fer ser­vice from New Haven, to Hartford and on to Spring­field, Mass. — starts Satur­day. The train ride from New Haven to Spring­field takes 81 min­utes.

The state De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion said the Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion has is­sued a new di­rec­tive that re­quires the re­strooms to be closed un­til they are retro­fit­ted to meet ADA re­quire­ments. The rail coaches, which the

DOT is leas­ing from Mas­sachusetts, were built be­fore the ADA took ef­fect in 1990. After the DOT leased the cars, it started the retro­fit of the on­board re­strooms, but only half are done.

Ear­lier, the FRA ap­proved the use of the coaches on an in­terim ba­sis un­til the bath­rooms were mod­i­fied.

How­ever, DOT said the FRA re­versed this de­ci­sion days be­fore the launch of the Hartford Line, and the bath­rooms now must re­main locked un­til the mod­i­fi­ca­tions are com­plete and one ac­ces­si­ble re­stroom per set of rail­cars is avail­able.

Be­cause half the re­strooms will be locked, DOT has an­nounced the fol­low­ing steps to ac­com­mo­date rail pas­sen­gers:

▶ Fully ac­ces­si­ble por­ta­ble re­strooms will be in­stalled at the five Hartford Line sta­tions that do not cur­rently have them: Ber­lin, Meri­den, Wallingford, Wind­sor and Wind­sor Locks.

▶ New signs at sta­tions and on the Hartford Line web­site will make clear which cars will have re­strooms avail­able “and re­mind all riders to plan ac­cord­ingly.”

The DOT says it “will work ag­gres­sively to en­sure re­strooms are avail­able on all trains early in 2019. DOT’s ser­vice provider has en­gaged a rail main­te­nance com­pany to mod­ify the in­te­rior of the coaches and in­stall a pre­fab­ri­cated bath­room that is com­pli­ant with ADA re­quire­ments. This work is be­ing per­formed on spare cars; later, the cars ini­tially put into use will be up­graded when the first pair is re­turned to ser­vice.”

“While we hope that the FRA will re­con­sider its po­si­tion over the next sev­eral months, CTDOT is thrilled to launch Con­necti­cut’s first new pas­sen­ger train ser­vice in 20 years,” DOT Com­mis­sioner James P. Redeker said in a state­ment.

“With trains ca­pa­ble of reach­ing speeds of 110 mph, the Hartford Line will of­fer fast, easy ser­vice from New Haven to Hartford and be­yond. In short, it will be a game-changer for Con­necti­cut’s tran­sit op­tions, and I am con­fi­dent that it will be a smooth and suc­cess­ful launch.”

While 110 mph is fast, it will seem too slow, es­pe­cially if you have to go.

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