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MTA Announces 181 St A Station in Washington Heights Now Fully Accessible

Updated December 7, 2023 6:15 p.m.
181 St A Accessible

Eighth Station to Become Accessible This Year With Accessibility Projects Completed Across All Five Boroughs in 2023

See B-roll of Newly Installed Elevators

See Video of Today’s News Conference

See Photos from Today’s News Conference


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced the completion of the elevator project at the 181 St  subway station in Washington Heights making the station fully accessible. The project included the installation of two new elevators taking customers from the lower mezzanine to the platform, and a new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramp making the station entrance at Overlook Terrace accessible.

The installed elevators include a new fire alarm system, smoke and heat detectors and cameras inside the elevator cabs, all to enhance customer safety. Each elevator is also equipped with an emergency two-way communication system which gives riders the ability to communicate with dispatchers in the event of an emergency via standard voice communications or visually by answering on-screen questions, which greatly improves communication for riders with hearing or speech disabilities.

“The MTA system includes many architectural gems. This station – which is listed on the US Register of Historic Places – is one of them. It dates back to 1932, and finally, we’re bringing it into the 21st century with two brand new elevators,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “As I said in Park Slope two weeks ago when we finally made the 7 Av  station accessible – improving transit accessibility is a passion of mine. I am thrilled at the unprecedented pace we’re knocking these projects out, five times faster than prior MTA administrations.”

“Newly accessible stations like 181 St  are the fruits of our efforts to execute projects better, faster, and cheaper through innovative delivery methods like project bundling,” said MTA Construction & Development President Jamie Torres-Springer. “We are on track to complete this particular eight-station package of ADA upgrades, which will greatly improve accessibility not just in Upper Manhattan but throughout our transit system.”

“Due to the unique geography of Washington Heights, this station has had elevators for as long as I can remember – but never an accessible path to actually get onto the train,” said MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo. “For wheelchair users and others who need step-free access, the journey stopped at the mezzanine. That changes today, with two new elevators making train service at this station fully accessible, a big win for Washington Heights and a big win for accessibility.”

181 St  ADA upgrades were fully funded by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). This project is part of an ADA-improvement package of eight subway stations, which is MTA Construction & Development’s second such package being delivered better, faster, and cheaper through innovative contracting tools such as design-build and project bundling. Once the package is completed, six stations will be made newly ADA accessible, including Court Sq  and 8 Av  which opened in July, and elevators will be replaced at two stations, including Flushing Av on the , which was completed in October

Overall, 181 St is the ninth elevator project completed this year, including eight MTA projects and an additional public-private partnership that was completed over the summer in Brooklyn. In addition to the elevator installations, crews constructed two new staircases, and rehabilitation of existing staircases, along with reconstructed platform edges along with a new ADA boarding area.

Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design, new mosaic artworks by artist Carmen Lizardo titled Great Waves of Immigration are located near the newly installed elevators and above the two staircases that lead to the northbound and southbound platforms.

Delivering Accessibility Projects Better, Faster, and Cheaper 

The pace in which the MTA is awarding contracts for accessible projects is five times what it was before 2020. The MTA has awarded contracts for 13 stations in 2020, 10 stations in 2021, 13 stations in 2022, and previously announced its plan to award contracts for 16 stations by the end of the year. In addition to the accessible entrance opened today, there are accessibility upgrades funded by private developers in progress at the 57 St  station in Manhattan, and the Queensboro Plaza  station in Queens.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when ridership significantly decreased, the MTA prioritized expanding accessibility improvements in the subway by completing 15 accessibility projects. Following today's announcement, there are 145 accessible stations and 27 stations in construction for accessibility upgrades, five of which are expected to be complete by the end of 2023.

The 2020-2024 MTA Capital Plan includes a historic investment of $5.2 billion to make 67 subway stations ADA accessible, more than any capital plan in the MTA’s history and more than the last three capital plans combined. In addition, the Authority is delivering accessibility projects at an unprecedented pace, completing 24 ADA stations since 2020, double the number of ADA stations completed in the previous six years.

“I am delighted ADA work at the 181 St  station is officially complete! The Washington Heights community voices have been heard loud and clear, and thanks to them, two new elevators are now in service, making our station more accessible than ever,” said Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “This significant project includes new boarding areas, platform replacements, reconstructed staircases, and a regraded ramp entrance at Overlook Terrace to ensure ADA compliance and a more inclusive and accessible public space for all.”

“Today, we celebrate the culmination of the MTA's unwavering commitment as we witness the transformation of the 181st St  station.” said New York State Senator Robert Jackson. “With the successful completion of ADA enhancements, the installation of new elevators, and the addition of vibrant artwork, these improvements stand as a testament to the agency's dedication to enhancing the experiences of all my constituents. They ensure a brighter and more accessible future for our community.”

“This is a great day,” said New York State Assembly Member Al Taylor. “This is one of the richest communities in the state of New York, so much history, now everyone has access to get here to witness it for themselves.”

“Earlier this year, we announced the new ADA upgrades to the Dyckman  train, which was received with great enthusiasm and relief,” said New York City Council Member Carmen De La Rosa. “Today, we are proud to continue the goal of making the largest public transportation system in the world accessible at our 181st  train station. District 10 is home to a thriving aging and differently-abled community that also deserves equitable access and mobility in our city. I’m exciting to see future projects completed and the eventual full ADA transit transformation in NYC.”

“Making this station ADA accessible is lifechanging for local disabled residents and other disabled people who have never been able to use this stop before,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “This shows a commitment to inclusivity and equal opportunity for all riders. In creating a transportation system that accommodates everyone, we foster a more connected and equitable urban landscape.”