Metro, The T, Newton

Newton Residents Voice Concerns With MBTA’s Commuter Rail Project

The MBTA held a public meeting on Wednesday to outline the renovations for the Auburndale, West Newton, and Newtonville stations to improve accessibility. With more than 100 people at the meeting, residents expressed concerns about the project’s funding and timeline. 

The project aims to make the three stations more accessible through ramps, additional stairs, and elevators. The improvements will allow for bidirectional service with high-level platforms. The stations currently have low-level platforms that can only be reached via stairways. 

The project also involves upgrading station amenities and station connections to local roads and existing parking areas. 

“A second side platform at each station would provide increased reliability for the system by allowing safe service on both or either track,” Sharon Cranston, a project manager, said. “High-level platforms are designed to provide both accessible access and reduce dwell times in the stations. In addition to the high-level platforms, all platforms are planned to have two accessible paths of travel.”

Many existing stations were built in the 1960s and are in disrepair, Cranston said. All three stations involved in the project are asphalt, low-level platforms with painted warning strips and are only accessible by stairs. They each have a partial canopy and are between the tracks on the highway. 

Increasing the stations’ accessibility will increase the daily number of people boarding, according to Kristine Wickham, a member of the project team.

“This project encompasses all three Newton stations … which have a combined daily ridership of approximately 1,000 boardings per day,” Cranston said. “These stations currently have 46 trains passing through and 22 trains stopping per day.” 

The project is currently at the 30-percent design stage, meaning that the conceptual design and the preliminary engineering are complete. Nancy Farrell, who works on the project team, said that this means it is difficult to answer detailed questions about the project.  

Both Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and Farrell encouraged residents to engage with the project and provide feedback throughout its various stages. Cranston said the project team has been working with, and will continue to work with, the city, elected officials, and the public. At the meeting residents voiced their questions and concerns. 

Newton resident Peter Harrington raised concerns about when service will be available again after construction begins. Cranston responded that the three stations are expected to be built and opened at the same time to maintain maximum efficiency. She also assured attendees that accessible service will be brought to Newton approximately halfway through construction. The construction is estimated to take five years, MBTA Deputy Press Secretary Nicole Battison said in an email to The Heights

Resident Lucia Dolan raised concerns about funding for the project. The MBTA does not currently have funding for the project, which Cranston said is not unusual. 

Newtonian Scott Sanders asked why it took so long for the Newton stations to be made accessible. Angel Donahue-Rodriguez, deputy chief of staff to the general manager of the MBTA, cited the complexity of the project in response. 

“We have limited resources and there are a lot of restraints on the MBTA,” Donahue-Rodirguez said. “Designing is very complicated.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

October 19, 2021