The T, Newton, Metro

MBTA Proposes Redesign of Newton Commuter Rail Stations

MBTA personnel proposed a project to redesign Newton’s three MBTA Commuter Rail platforms at its community meeting Wednesday night. 

Named the MBTA’s “Newton Commuter Rail Accessibility Improvements” project, it will provide new fully accessible platforms for three existing Worcester Line stations in Newton: Auburndale, West Newton, and Newtonville.

The Federal Transit Administration denied the MBTA’s grant application for the federal All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP) in 2022. The Project Team reapplied for an ASAP grant in January 2024 for $40 million with a $10 million MBTA match, according to Angel Donahue-Rodriguez, the MBTA Assistant General Manager of External Affairs. 

U.S. House Representative Jake Auchincloss, who secured $7 million for the project via earmarks, also stressed that Newton’s federal representatives are committed to the project.

“We are fighting as hard as possible here in Washington … to make sure the All Stations Accessibility Program gives this project every consideration,” Auchincloss said.

The proposed concept for Newtonville station is to reduce platform length from 800 feet to 400 feet based on parameters provided by MBTA Operations Control Center. A fully accessible up-and-over structure has also been planned to provide access to both platforms. 

Due to the shorter platform length, the station will be meant only for high-frequency small train sets, according to Alistair Sawers, Senior Director of Rail Transformation at the MBTA. 

“The intent is not to have a train longer than the platform line,” Sawers said. “That would be an accessibility issue.”

The Newtonville station will be the first to undergo redesign because it has the highest ridership, and the site has enough space to consider a center island platform. Construction on the Auburndale and West Newton stations will follow the completion of the Newtonville station’s redesign, according to Donahue-Rodriguez. 

At the meeting, Vice President of the Newtonville Area Council Laura De Veau pointed out the unappealing visual aesthetic of the Newtonville station. 

“It’s not pretty … it’s important for us to understand that it’s really not attractive,” De Veau said. 

In response, MBTA Project Manager Sharon Cranston said solutions are limited. 

“Our landscaping is designed to be as low maintenance as possible … so we have design guidelines for plant choice that the MBTA will install,” Cranston said. 

Ward 2 Councilor-at-Large Tarik Lucas proposed that the MBTA make improvements to limit noise disturbance for residents near Washington Street, since the agency may be doing construction on the road. 

“I would like to see the MBTA install … a sound wall, sound barriers, and trees along the state portion of the Mass Pike,” Lucas said.

Massachusetts House Representative Kay Khan said she is highly enthusiastic for the project. 

“I’ve been at this for probably close to 30 years,” Khan said. “So I’m happy that we’re at this point.”

April 12, 2024