Posted by Gary Talbot, MBTA Assistant General Manager, System-Wide Accessibility
I am pleased to report the Patrick Administration has committed $2 million in federal stimulus funds to make the Wedgemere Commuter Rail Station in Winchester accessible. While improved access benefits all customers—from families with strollers to passengers with luggage—it can make a world of difference to people like Jean Batty and her 5 year-old son, Theo, who uses a wheelchair. The Batty family lives just steps from the station, and Theo looks forward to the day when he can ride the train to see the Sox play at Fenway, watch the fireworks on the 4th or someday attend college in Boston. The Batty family joined several dozen others including state legislators and Town Selectman at this month's regional Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting, testifying in favor of the project.
The Batty family put their hopes for the project on You Tube, below.
Ms. Batty first contacted the MBTA Department of System-Wide Accessibility back in 2008 to find out if there were any plans to make the Winchester or Wedgemere Stations accessible. Her inspiring story continues after the jump.
Presently, the only way to board a train at Winchester or Wedgemere is to climb a set of on-board steps. At the time, we explained to Ms. Batty that, because Winchester and Wedgemere were not considered key stations and because they were not undergoing significant alterations, there was no legal requirement for the MBTA to make either station accessible. This was not what we wanted to tell Ms. Batty or what she expected to hear from the MBTA. Additionally, if the MBTA elected to make either station accessible, the FTA would require us to install full-high platforms (platforms that allow for level boarding at all train doors and that run the entire length of the platform) as are required at all newly constructed stations and stations that are undergoing significant alteration. Full-high platforms typically cost 8–10 million dollars and are not technically feasible at all stations.
This information did not deter Ms. Batty as she decided to focus her efforts on the Wedgemere station. With support from local politicians and the MBTA, she lobbied for an alternate solution to the full-high platform requirement. As a result, in July of 2009, the FTA granted the MBTA permission to install mini-high platforms at Wedgemere station. Mini-high platforms are an accessibility solution that were popular in the 1990s. Like full-high platforms, they provide ramped access to a platform that is level with the vehicle floor. Unlike full-highs, however, they are significantly smaller and only service two coaches of the train. As such, they are much simpler to construct and significantly less expensive than full-high platforms.
With the FTA’s approval in hand, Ms. Batty continued her work with local politicians and the MBTA, this time to secure funding. With support from the Representative Ed Markey, MA Secretary of Transportation, Jeffrey Mullan and Governor Patrick, funds were identified and reallocated by the MPO. The design for mini-high platforms at Wedgemere will begin very soon, with a construction completion date that could be set in the next few months.
After Wedgemere is complete, 36 inaccessible Commuter Rail stations with remain. Calls and letters from local residents to improve accessibility at Concord’s station are already flooding in. With continued collaboration between residents and local, state and federal government, we will continue improve accessibility system-wide. Thank you again to Ms. Batty for her tireless efforts to help make this accessibility win a reality. The impact of her efforts is best said by our Secretary Jeff Mullan, “please know that this is exactly what the Governor keeps talking about – doing things to help real people live their lives. Let’s make sure that the story is told again and again”. Wow, what an incredible statement of support, are we going to have fun or what! Learn more about the MBTA commitment to accessibility.