Amtrak, in a settlement with the U.S. Dept. of Justice over alleged violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), has agreed to design and construct changes in platforms, parking lots and other infrastructure at scores of its stations to comply with the law’s requirements.
The pact, which DOJ announced Dec. 2, states that over the next decade, Amtrak will carry out design work for at least 135 stations to bring them into compliance with the ADA. The railroad has about 500 stations.
Of those 135 stations, Amtrak is committing to complete construction for at least 90 and to have projects under construction at the other 45 locations over 10 years.
After getting needed approvals from state environmental and historical preservation officials, utilities and other parties, Amtrak will have 36 months to complete construction for those project elements that have received final approvals.
Fourteen “mega-stations”—including such major hubs as New York Penn Station and Los Angeles Union Station—remain subject to ADA requirements but are exempt from the settlement's 10-year timeline for repairs and improvements “due to their size and complexity,” the document states.
According to DOJ, the ADA, enacted in 1990, gave Amtrak until 2010 to get its facilities into compliance with the statute. But Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general in charge of DOJ’s civil rights division, said in a statement that the railroad “failed or refused to comply” with the 2010 deadline “and Amtrak’s noncompliance with the [ADA] injured individuals with disabilities.”
Dreiband added, “Passengers with disabilities have waited long enough.”
Amtrak also agreed to establish a $2.25-million settlement fund to compensate individuals who were “harmed by Amtrak’s lack of accessible transportation services” related to 78 stations with “significant accessibility issues.”
Those stations range from Montpelier, Vt., to Wishram, Wash.
The time period involved is between July 27, 2013 and the effective date of the settlement.
The settlement document also says that Amtrak denies the allegations and is committed to ADA compliance. The pact states that Amtrak’s signing of the settlement “should not be considered an admission or evidence of guilt or liability.”
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says via email that the settlement “builds on many aspects of Amtrak's long-standing ADA compliance efforts—not just architectural compliance at stations, but also training for employees, effective oversight by [Federal Railroad Administration] and Amtrak executives and compensation for certain passengers who may have been harmed by non-compliance at certain stations.”
Magliari didn't provide an estimate of what the new ADA design and construction program would cost. But he says that in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the railroad spent a record $109 million on ADA-related projects at 159 locations.
ADA projects were completed in 2020 at Montgomery, W.Va., and Picayune, Miss., Amtrak said at a recent press briefing.
Spelling of Eric Driband's surname corrected, 12/2/2020 p.m.