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Wednesday, October 17 Local

New rail line ready to go; half with locked restrooms

If you’re planning to use the new Hartford Rail Line that begins operations this weekend, you might want to take a bathroom break before boarding.

That’s because restrooms on half of the Hartford Line trains will be locked.

The reason? The older rail are not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Service on the line that will offer service from New Haven to Springfield, Mass. starts on Saturday. The train ride from New Haven to Springfield takes 81 minutes.

The state Department of Transportation said the Federal Railroad Administration has issued a new directive that requires the on-board restrooms to be closed until they are retrofitted to meet ADA requirements.

The rail coaches that the DOT is leasing from Massachusetts, were built before the ADA took effect in 1990. Once DOT leased the cars it started the retrofit of the on-board restrooms, but only half were completed.

Earlier, the FRA approved the use of the coaches on an interim basis until the bathrooms are being modified.

However, DOT says the FRA reversed this decision days before the launch of the Hartford Line, and the bathrooms must now remain locked until the modifications are complete and one accessible restroom per set of railcars is available.

Because half the restrooms will be locked, DOT has announced the following steps to ... accommodate... rail passengers:

Fully accessible portable restrooms will be installed at the five Hartford Line stations that do not currently have them: Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford, Windsor and Windsor Locks.

New signs at stations and on the Hartford Line website will make clear which cars will have restrooms available, “and remind all riders to plan accordingly.”

The DOT says it “will work aggressively to ensure restrooms are available on all trains early in 2019. DOT’s service provider has engaged a rail maintenance company to modify the interior of the coaches and install a prefabricated bathroom that is compliant with ADA requirements. This work is being performed on spare cars; later, the cars initially put into use will be upgraded when the first pair is returned to service.”

“While we hope that the FRA will reconsider its position over the next several months, CTDOT is thrilled to launch Connecticut’s first new passenger train service in 20 years,” DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker,” said in a release.

“With trains capable of reaching speeds of 110 miles per hour, the Hartford Line will offer fast, easy service from New Haven to Hartford and beyond. In short, it will be a game-changer for Connecticut’s transit options, and I am confident that it will be a smooth and successful launch.”

While 110 mph is fast, it will seem too slow, especially if you have to go.

For information, schedules and restrooms on the Hartford Rail Line trains, visit http://www.hartfordline.com/

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