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Biden administration to announce $1.75 billion in funding to improve rail station accessibility

By Donald Judd, CNN

The Biden administration on Tuesday will announce $1.75 billion in infrastructure funding to improve accessibility at the nation’s public rail stations, allowing local transit authorities to retrofit stations with elevators to accommodate travelers with disabilities.

The funding, which comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law, falls under the legislation’s “All Stations Accessibility Program,” and makes $343 million in funding available to transit agencies in fiscal year 2022, 32 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is expected to announce the program in a virtual event marking the anniversary Tuesday.

The White House estimates that over 900 transit stations across the country, known as “legacy stations,” were built before passage in 1990 and are not fully accessible, a pitfall Buttigieg told reporters Monday had “practical implications” for millions of Americans.

“For many people who use a wheelchair, or are blind or low vision, or just have a bad knee or are coming out of a surgery, or older folks who have trouble getting up and down stairs, this often means that affordable public transportation by rail is not an option,” Buttigieg said.

“That is not right, it is not fair, and it is not smart, constricting the lives of millions of Americans in communities across the country, robbing them of opportunity and robbing communities of their potential to fully contribute, and that is what we intend to change through ASAP,” he added.

In a White House fact sheet shared with CNN, the administration says the program “will provide support for transit agencies to repair, improve, modify, retrofit, or relocate infrastructure of stations or facilities for passenger use. Planning activities by transit agencies seeking to improve accessibility also qualify for ASAP funds.”

Transit agencies and authorities will have to apply through the Federal Transit Administration to receive grant funding and will have to match 20% of project funding.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who introduced the provision as part of last year’s law and is a wheelchair user, told reporters on a call Monday she is “thrilled” to be part of Tuesday’s announcement.

Because of the funding, she said, “more in our community will be able to get to work and get to work, more moms will be able to take their newborns to the pediatrician appointments, more Americans will be able to live the full, independent lives they deserve.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of steps the Department of Transportation has taken to improve accessibility in transportation, including $1 billion in infrastructure law funding earlier this month for the modernization of airport terminals and the move to publish the nation’s first-ever bill of rights for airline passengers with disabilities.

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