Tribland residents and visitors who have had trouble while boarding or de-boarding Amtrak trains in Holdrege due to lack of handicapped-accessibility at the station there may be eligible for compensation, Amtrak has announced.
According to the government-owned passenger rail company and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Holdrege station is Nebraska’s only Amtrak location covered under the settlement agreement that prompted establishment of the compensation fund.
Holdrege is 50 miles southwest of Hastings, which has a handicapped-accessible Amtrak station. Both stations are visited by the California Zephyr, which provides service between Chicago and San Francisco with westbound and eastbound departures three times per week and Nebraska stops in Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, Holdrege and McCook.
Residents and visitors to communities on Tribland’s western flank sometimes board and de-board the trains in Holdrege, depending on whether Hastings or Holdrege is closer to their homes or destinations. Under the schedule that took effect in October 2020, both westbound and eastbound stops in Hastings and Holdrege are scheduled for the overnight hours — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for westbound trains and Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays for eastbound trains.
The settlement agreement, which is between Amtrak and the Department of Justice, covers riders who suffered harm due to alleged violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act that occurred between July 27, 2013, and Dec. 2, 2020.
The $2.25 million compensation fund is to provide for passengers who have a mobility disability and were harmed physically or emotionally because of accessibility issues at Holdrege or any of 63 other Amtrak stations across the United States. Other identified problem stations on the California Zephyr route include Princeton, Illinois; Mount Pleasant, Creston and Burlington, Iowa; and Fort Morgan, Granby and Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
Examples of ADA issues at the various stations include inaccessible parking, steep slopes or steps to get into the stations; lack of directional signs; restrooms with inaccessible entrances, stalls or sinks; high ticket counters; deteriorated platforms; and narrow routes at stations.
According to the Department of Justice, those potentially eligible for compensation may have lived in the communities where the problem stations are located or may have visited or desired to visit a place closer to one or more of those stations than any accessible, alternative Amtrak station.
After Congress passed the ADA and President George H.W. Bush signed it into law in 1990, Amtrak was given 20 years to bring its stations into compliance. An investigation in 2013 by by the National Disability Rights Network found many ADA violations still existing and filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, which investigated.
Under terms of the settlement agreement, Amtrak not only will compensate those who suffered harm, but also now will bring the problem stations into compliance.
Deadline to submit compensation claims is May 29. To learn more about the settlement or to learn how to file a claim, visit AmtrakDisabilitySettlement.com. Other ways to get information on filing a claim are to send an email with your name, address and telephone number to info@AmtrakDisability; or to call the fund administrator at 888-334-6165 or TTY 866-411-6976.
Disability Rights Nebraska, a nonprofit advocacy group, issued a news release Monday seeking to publicize the settlement agreement and how to file compensation claims.
“While this is a nationwide settlement, we want to make sure any Nebraskan who faced barriers at the Holdrege Ambrak station knows they are now entitled to compensation,” said Taania Diaz, legal services director of the organization. “Nebraskans are known for being welcoming and friendly — we want everyone traveling through our state to have a barrier-free experience.”
More information on the Americans With Disabilities Act is available at www.ada.gov or from the Department of Justice’s ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or TTY 800-514-0383.