$40M OK’d to Make Natick Center T Station Accessible to Disabled

BY JEFF MALACHOWSKI (Via METROWEST DAILY NEWS)

The state Capital Investment Program approved by the DOT and MBTA boards last week includes funding for two major transportation projects in the region.

NATICK – Jennifer Harnish walks more than a half-mile from her downtown home to the Natick Center commuter rail station each day to catch the train to her job in Newton.

Jennifer Harnish, Director of Rehabilitation Services, walks up a flight of stairs with her guide dog at the Natick T station.

Jennifer Harnish, Director of Rehabilitation Services, walks up a flight of stairs with her guide dog at the Natick T station. [Daily News and Wicked Local Staff Photo / Art Illman]

She doesn’t make the trek alone. By her side is Lisa, her seeing-eye dog. Harnish is blind and Lisa helps her navigate to the station and down the stairs to the train platform.

Unlike Harnish, others with disabilities cannot access the downtown station because it lacks elevators and ramps. Passengers must walk down stairs to get to the platform.

That will soon change.The state Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority boards have signed off on a five-year, $18.3 billion Capital Investment Program to fund numerous transportation initiatives across the state, including the $40 million upgrades to the Natick Center station and $146 million of the estimated $300 million Interstate 495-Mass Pike interchange project.

Upgrades to the Natick Center station are set to include elevators, ramps and two sets of stairs on each platform, better lighting and new high-level platforms to allow easy access for those in wheelchairs.

Tactile paving will be installed to alert those with vision impairments they are nearing the edge of the platform.

“That is absolutely lacking there,” said Harnish, director of rehabilitation services at the Carroll Center for the Blind.

The Natick Center station is the busiest in the commuter rail system that is not fully handicapped accessible. It serves about 1,250 riders a day.

“There’s still always risks at that station,” Harnish said regarding safety for disabled passengers.

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