MBTA Offers Public Update on Downtown Crossing Accessibility Project

Sam Cronin, Copy Editor


Members of the MBTA’s Downtown Crossing (DTX) Accessibility Team hosted a virtual public meeting on October 25 outlining plans for Phase II of the initiative. This project aims to bring the MBTA station into full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) by retrofitting or adding three elevators within the station and improving accessibility to the red and orange line platforms for patrons. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act pertains to train stations by regulating wheelchair accessibility, including ramps and elevators. From the MBTA’s public station listing homepage, 34 total stations are not listed as wheelchair accessible, with the majority being stations on the aging Green Line. However, Downtown Crossing is not one of the 34, indicating that it is already wheelchair accessible. 

The Scope reached out to the MBTA after the meeting to clarify what has kept the Downtown Crossing station from full compliance with the ADA. According to the Downtown Crossing Accessibility Team, the entirety of the Red and Orange lines are wheelchair accessible; however, addressing riders’ difficulties navigating between lines is the key focus of this project. 

“Downtown Crossing Station is indeed accessible,” the DTX team said in their email reply, “but it is difficult for riders to navigate between the lines. The Phase II improvements will help facilitate line transfers.”

The team also stressed that similar improvements are underway or in various planning stages for many of the non-accessible Green Line stations both above and underground.

“The Symphony Station Accessibility Improvements project will be proceeding to construction, and renovations are planned for Hynes Station as part of the Hynes Station Accessibility Improvements,” according to the DTX team. “There are plans in development to address the outstanding stations of the Green Line, beginning with Waban, Eliot, Chestnut Hill, and Beaconsfield as part of the D Branch Station Accessibility Improvements Project. There are also Accessibility Improvements Projects for Brookline Hills Station and Newton Highlands Station.”

Inside the Downtown Crossing T stop where riders can connect to the Red, Orange and Green Lines, but sometimes, not easily. (Photo: Sam Cronin)

The first phase of the Downtown Crossing Accessibility project consisted of the addition of two elevators between the Red Line northbound and Orange Line northbound lines. This project’s second phase will proceed to make connections between the Red Line southbound and both Orange lines, plus between the Red Line northbound and Orange Line southbound.

To do this, one existing non-compliant elevator near the Park Street concourse will be replaced entirely, which will entail the construction of a new stairway to accommodate foot traffic. This will provide access to the Green Line on one level and Red Line on the other. 

In addition, a second elevator near the Winter Street concourse will be replaced with a three-stop elevator, providing access between the Orange and Red lines. To work around the locations of existing turnstiles, this elevator will require patrons to exit on one level, go through the platform and re-enter to get to the other line on the final level. 

Finally, a brand new elevator shaft will be installed near the Macy’s side of the station. This will facilitate access between the Orange Line on one level and the Red Line on the other. To simplify the construction, this elevator will be inserted within the confines of an existing U-shaped stairwell. 

All three of the elevators will come equipped with security cameras and will be glazed for fireproofing. Visual panels will also be installed, which will provide patrons with updates to elevator service. 

As a means of explanation for the project’s goals, 3D construction animations were played for the public, showcasing the before and after states of each of the three elevator shafts and the existing infrastructure, which will be preserved. This includes an in-service sewer line which will supposedly not have its functionality disrupted.

 In contrast, the Winter Street platform will be temporarily out of service while the new elevator is installed. The Park Street elevator renovation should not disrupt any T service. In addition, the entirety of the meeting was translated by a team of two American Sign Language interpreters. 

This is one of many ongoing accessibility projects within the MBTA and is scheduled to apply for a “notice to proceed construction” contract in quarter three of 2022, with projected completion in quarter two of 2025. If all goes to plan, Downtown Crossing will be one more T station to be in full code compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act. 




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