Why Milton is up in arms as the MBTA begins demolishing a station’s staircase

A staircase at Milton Station has long been in disrepair. But news of its impending demolition is not necessarily welcome for local leaders.

The crumbling concrete staircase at Milton Station was blocked by a fence and concrete Jersey barrier in 2021.
The crumbling concrete staircase at Milton Station was blocked by a fence and concrete Jersey barrier in 2021. John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe, File

The MBTA will begin demolishing a staircase at Milton Station on Monday night, despite longstanding and vocal objections from local leaders.

According to Milton officials, the MBTA notified the town last week that it would demolish the decrepit flight of stairs beginning at 9 p.m., with construction taking place each night through Thursday.

During that time, shuttle buses will replace trolley service each night starting at 8:45, an MBTA alert states.

“The contractor will be demolishing the staircase with a hydraulic hammer and they will attempt to mitigate the noise,” a post on the town’s website states.

The stairs in question have been in disrepair and closed off for nearly a decade, and although town officials have long wanted action from the MBTA, the pending demolition has created waves.


“There is no plan to immediately replace the stairs after demolition work is complete, despite the Town’s repeated requests to the MBTA that it repair the stairs,” the town’s website says.

Local leaders say they’re concerned by the fact the stairs will not be immediately replaced, leaving riders in the lurch, again.

“The MBTA’s response to the Town’s efforts to seek a remedy to this injustice has been to inform the Town that it will demolish the staircase and leave a hole there for up to another decade,” Milton Select Board Chair Arthur Doyle wrote on behalf of the board to Gov. Maura Healey in a Feb. 17 letter.

The closure has required riders to “circumvent a large building to access the station via an ad-hoc route,” according to a separate letter sent to Healey late last month from state Sen. Walter Timilty, of the Norfolk, Plymouth, and Bristol District.

“In addition to it’s shameful disrespect for the safety of the Mattapan Line riders and the well-being of the surrounding communities, the MBTA has also exhibited a refusal to collaborate with and listen to stakeholders within the Milton, Dorchester, and Mattapan communities,” Timilty wrote. “Both the Town of Milton and I have, repeatedly, voiced our opposition to the MBTA’s plans to demolish the stairs over the past months.”


According to the MBTA, the demolition is part of the longer-term Mattapan Line Transformation project, an initiative focused on brining safety and infrastructure improvements and instituting a state of good repair for trains serving Dorchester, Mattapan, and Milton.

Through the project, the MBTA plans on eventually replacing the entire Milton Station.

Here’s what to know:

What the MBTA has said

In response to a letter sent to the MBTA from Doyle last August, then-MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak wrote the Adams Street staircase could not be repaired and reopened at that time because doing so would require “extensive repairs to make it fully accessible.”

“At a minimum, this would require installing an elevator, and elevating the platform approximately 14 inches, which is roughly 8 inches higher than the existing platform,” Poftak wrote. “This would impact all station connections and ultimately require a full station replacement.

“As part of the [transformation] project, the Milton Station will eventually be replaced and we are in the process of moving forward with the demolition of the Adams Street staircase,” he added.

According to the MBTA website, the Mattapan Line Transformation includes infrastructure improvements throughout the line, especially those to accommodate a new fleet of light rail vehicles to update the fleet of 1940s-era trolleys still in use today.


The project is expected to last between eight and 10 years.

“Our vision is to build a transformed Mattapan Line that provides mobility equity and a transit experience the community is proud of, with reliable, comfortable, and safe service where and when riders need it,” the website states. “This will include convenient access and connections, and a cohesive, uniform aesthetic that integrates the essence of the legacy PCC trolleys, adjacent natural resources and landmarks, and varied communities along the line.”

What Milton leaders have said

In his letter last month, Doyle wrote the stairs have been off-limits for commuters for almost 10 years.

“The deplorable condition of that long-neglected staircase is not only a safety hazard, but also a blight on the community, and eyesore to residents and visitors, and an impediment to commuters,” Doyle wrote.

The chairman went on to write that, “Such an injustice has not, and would not, occur in MBTA communities such as Newton or Wellesley, or Brookline, but Lower Mills, the doorstep to Dorchester and Mattapan, is left with no plan, no design, and no action for years and then decades. The Town objects to this disparate and inequitable treatment and seeks immediate relief.”

The town has repeatedly asked for the MBTA to repair and reopen the staircase, but the agency has ignored the issue, Doyle wrote. He implored Healey to step in to prevent the “MBTA’s continuing injustice.”

In his letter to the governor, Timilty wrote the riders who utilize the station have been forced “to jeopardize their own personal safety and well-being.”


“The MBTA’s decision to demolish the stairs will transform the staircase from a hazardous eyesore to an open hole in the ground. Doing so will only further exacerbate the safety and accessibility crises at hand,” he wrote. Additionally, the MBTA’s refusal to put forward a plan, which I have repeatedly requested, to immediately reconstruct the staircase is utterly unacceptable and highly irresponsible. To suggest that the ridership of Milton, Dorchester, and Mattapan will not see improvements until the redesign and rebuild phase takes place is dismissive to the demands and safety needs of the citizens who traverse the Mattapan Trolley Line each and every day.”

In response to the MBTA’s failure to act on removing and replacing the stairs, the town filed a lawsuit against the agency in Norfolk Superior Court in October to compel the MBTA “to do its job,” the complaint states.

The MBTA subsequently sought to have the case dismissed.

On Feb. 27, Judge Daniel O’Shea ruled against the town’s request for a preliminary injunction.

“The Town argues that it has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of its case by pointing to the decrepit condition of the longstanding disused staircase and the MBTA’s history of doing little, if anything about it,” O’Shea wrote. “While the frustration of the Town and local political leaders is clearly demonstrated, it appears that the MBTA is now acting to address the staircase problem, albeit not in a way that the Town would like.”

What the Healey administration said

On Sunday, the Healey Administration affirmed this week’s demolition will move forward.


“The Healey-Driscoll Administration appreciates the outreach from state and local officials regarding the Adams Street staircase at Milton Station and has carefully considered their concerns,” a statement shared by an MBTA spokesman reads. “Our top priorities are ensuring safety and accessibility at the station. To that end, demolition of the staircase will continue as planned beginning on March 6, as the staircase has been deemed unsafe and poses a risk to the public in its current state.”

According to the statement, Transportation Secretary and CEO Gina Fiandaca has directed the MBTA to “urgently move forward with design work for the new Milton Station, including a fully ADA compliant path to travel in the area where this staircase is located.”

“In the interim, passengers can access the station from Wharf Street,” the statement says. “We are committed to continued communication and collaboration with the community while these improvements are made.”


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