New CT trail line poses temporary problem for disabled riders

A new rail line poses a temporary problem for disabled riders (WFSB)

MERIDEN, CT (WFSB –

The trains are coming and 16 cars will soon be ready to roll on the new rail line from New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts.

There is a problem with the cars for those with disabilities.

In just a matter of days, CT rail cars will be up and running.

This new line has been in the works for years, to get people out of their cars and onto public transportation.

"Less traffic, for some people it’s more convenient,” said Terrill Shephard of Naugatuck.

"This is a way to open the line, do it reasonably. It’s cost effective and when we replace the entire fleet we will get a much better deal,” said Jim Redeker, CT DOT Commissioner.

Redeker says the entire project will cost $700 million.

The state is leasing these cars until new ones are ready. Built in the 1980’s, they are a bit outdated but the real issue is the bathrooms.

When the cars were built there are some accommodations for people with disabilities, but a lot has changed in 40 years.

The problem is the bathrooms are not wide enough for modern-day wheelchairs.

"People with disabilities will have some significant barriers at the beginning of the service,” said Michelle Duprey, disability advocate.

Duprey is more than an advocate, she works for the city of New Haven as the Director of Services for those with disabilities.

She was born with a rare genetic disease that causes her bones to break easily.

Duprey knows how difficult it is to get around.

She’s spoken with the state about making sure those with disabilities have access.

Under pressure from the Federal Rail Administration, the DOT will need to retrofit the older bathrooms to be in compliance.

It will take several months and will cost an additional half a million dollars for 4 bathrooms.

That means from June 16 to November, those with larger wheelchairs won’t be able to use the bathrooms on the trains.

“That’s why we’re are providing accommodations at every station for everyone to use,” said Redeker.

“I don’t think it was an oversight because the state requested an exemption from the federal government a year ago. I don’t think it was a priority,” said Duprey.

Priority or not, it is the law and the state will install, portable accessible bathrooms on the train platforms at 5 train stops.

This is only temporary from June 16 until November.

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