Restrooms now open on New Haven-Hartford Line rail cars

Restrooms on the Hartford Line, the high-speed commuter rail line that began rolling in June, are open for use, the state Department of Transportation announced Monday.

The restrooms were kept closed because they did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Federal Railroad Administration ordered them locked and the DOT has been working to retrofit the restrooms, with the first ones open by December.

The 30-year-old rail cars have been leased for three years from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

However, because of a complaint filed by a person with Crohn’s disease, a condition in which sufferers “need sudden and/or unpredictable restroom access,” according to a letter from the FRA, one restroom per train has been opened while the retrofitting work continues. The letter was signed by Calvin Gibson, director of the FRA’s Office of Civil Rights.

“FRA’s decision to reopen the bathrooms on CTrail Hartford Line trains is based on an analysis it conducted after receiving a complaint filed in June arguing that the closure of the bathrooms violated the rights of individuals with certain disabilities,” the DOT said in a press release issued Monday.

The FRA had ruled the restrooms must be closed because of two complaints from disability organizations, the federal agency’s letter stated. A DOT spokesman said the complaints came from the National Disability Rights Network, based in Washington, D.C.

“The complaints alleged that it is discriminatory to provide non-accessible restrooms on board while mobility impaired individuals are limited to accessible restrooms provided on the platforms,” Monday’s letter stated.

The DOT had installed accessible restrooms at the Berlin, Meriden, Wallingford, Windsor and Windsor Locks stations, which the agency said will continue to be available.

The DOT said the first restroom conversion will be completed by December, with the remaining three finished by mid-2019, the release said.

“My client and I are very pleased that the FRA took the claim seriously and tried to balance the concerns of people with mobility disability issues with those of persons with other disabilities that require immediate bathroom access,” Lerman said Monday.

A request for comments was emailed to Lerman and to the National Disability Rights Network Monday afternoon.

The 62-mile Hartford Line, which travels between New Haven and Springfield, Massachusetts, in 81 minutes, has had higher-than-expected ridership since its June 16 launch. It has stations in Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor and Windsor Locks.