BRATTLEBORO — The Development Review Board gave Amtrak its blessing for a new station and other improvements related to improving accessibility.
Ellen Pannell, third party coordinator for Amtrak’s ADA Stations Program, told the board the goal of the nationwide program is to “provide the best service possible to our passengers with mobility needs.” She said the station must meet specific standards outlined by the company and the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as guidelines from the state related to historic preservation.
In a hearing held remotely Wednesday, the DRB voted unanimously to approve a site plan for Amtrak to have a new platform and a station building shelter constructed in compliance with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The company will need to continue talks with the town’s Department of Works and fire department related to ensuring safety as part of the conditions of the approval.
The platform is proposed to be 345 feet long with “guardrails, platform drainage, full cut-off/dark-sky compliant lighting, signage and snow melt system that extends to cover the station building plaza area,” state town documents. It will be on the other side of the tracks from where the existing platform is now.
The new 1,300-square-foot station building is expected to be all brick with a gable roof style, a 500-square-foot waiting room and other spaces including an attached bathroom. It will be on an elevated plaza that’s level with the platform, with two stairs and two ramps leading to the parking level.
The approximately $4.5 million project also includes widening Depot Street to keep a 22-foot width and moving the curb line about 5 feet east towards the Connecticut River.
A level boarding platform will allow wheelchair users access without stairs or special assistance. Brattleboro’s will mark the first in Vermont, Pannell said.
Lonnie Murray, director for Amtrak’s ADA Stations Program, said funding for the heated platform has been approved. He also noted future plans are being discussed to increase Amtrak services coming through Brattleboro.
Pannell said an agreement related to maintenance will need to be struck between Amtrak, the town and New England Central Railroad because improvements the company is making affect properties belonging to the latter two.
Danny Lichtenfeld, director of the neighboring Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, praised the Amtrak project, calling it “an incredible development in Brattleboro’s history.” He said the station will be the fourth in 160 years of train service in the town.
“It’s like a once in a century opportunity to move ahead with something like this,” he said. “I think it’s so exciting Amtrak is stepping up in this way and doing this for Brattleboro.”
Amtrak may need a state wastewater permit for the sewer and water connection, Brattleboro Zoning Administrator Brian Bannon told the Reformer. That would come administratively rather than through a hearing process.
The town is planning to add parking as spaces are anticipated to be lost with construction. Brattleboro Planning Director Sue Fillion said the project involves demolishing the Archery Building and putting the parking lot in the area of the existing bus turnaround.
A separate hearing with the DRB will be warned in the future. Town officials didn’t have a timeline on Wednesday night.