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FTA Announces Funding to Make Train Stations More Accessible

Some 900 subway and rail platforms across the nation remain inaccessible to riders with physical disabilities. Funding provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help to retrofit these old stations.

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Hundreds of old subway and other rail platforms are eligible for upgrades to make them more accessible to disabled riders.

The U.S. Federal Transit Administration announced the release of $1.75 billion over the next five years to be used to install elevators, ramps and other features to make the stations more accessible.

The funding, which will provide $343 million in competitive grants this year, is made possible through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The announcement comes 32 years to the day after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which set in motion a sea change to make public spaces more accessible.

“There is more work to do, to live up to the promise of this landmark legislation,” remarked Mitch Landrieu, White House coordinator of the infrastructure law, and a former mayor of New Orleans.

President Joe Biden’s goal behind the infrastructure legislation was to “build a better America,” said Landrieu, in comments with reporters Monday evening to announce the funding for the All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP). “And better means building an equity lens into everything we do. Every community. Black, white and brown. Rural and urban. Those with disabilities should be lifted up and supported as we transform America for the better.”

Some 900 subway and other rail platforms across 17 legacy transit systems were built before 1990 and remain accessible largely only by stairs. The ADA law applied to new construction, or retrofitting old platforms during a large renovation. About half of these inaccessible stations are in New York City.

Officials admit, the funding announced Tuesday will likely seldom cover the whole cost of retrofitting a station but can serve as the kind of down payment to get the job moving. The funding also requires a 20 percent local match. Proposals are due by Sept. 30, and must be submitted electronically.

“It will be difficult to try to project how many stations will be fully funded,” said Nuria Fernandez, administrator for the FTA.

Federal officials focused on the delayed need at so many stations, where retrofitting to serve not only riders who may have physical disabilities but also the elderly and riders with hearing or vision limitations, has been long overdue.

“So much progress has been made because of that law, including requiring new stations to be accessible,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “But 32 years on, we’ve got a lot of work to do to deliver fully on the ADA’s promise, which includes retrofitting those 900-plus stations.”

The benefits of more accessible stations will reach beyond the disability community, and will help parents struggling with a stroller, travelers lugging around suitcases and other users of public transit, say officials.

“This will ultimately benefit all Americans,” said Buttigieg.

“This program is a big deal, and is one that I know many communities are eagerly anticipating. We expect a lot of strong and competitive applications for transit agencies and authorities around the country,” he added.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.


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