Police & Fire: North Wilmington MBTA Train Crossing Is Endangering Lives

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Police Chief Michael Begonis & Wilmington Deputy Fire Chief Bill Cavanaugh updated the Board of the Selectmen last week about ongoing issues concerned the North Wilmington MBTA Train Crossing.

“When the northbound train comes in, if they stop just the first car at the platform, it leaves four train cars across Route 62. The concern of emergency responders in town is we simply can’t get across the tracks while the train is in the depot,” explained Chief Begonis. “An average train stop runs between a minute and a minute-and-a half, sometimes up to 2 minutes. That’s a critical concern of ours when there’s a major incident on the other side of that crossing that we need to get to.”

The feared “nightmare” scenario occurred on Monday, June 17 when several fire apparatus and police officers were held up by a train at the North Wilmington station while responding to a call for service off of Salem Street.

“This has been an ongoing source of frustration for us. With that serious call for service, we would have hoped to have gotten there earlier,” said Begonis. “When we do observe the train blocking the station, we do call Keolis. We now have a 2-year history of logs.”

“There are established protocols in place to prevent this, but it is up to the engineer as to whether or not their followed,” added Begonis. “The issue is turnover. Individuals who work for Keolis don’t always work that route.”

After the incident two weeks ago, Wilmington Police and Fire officials have begun speaking to the Chief Operator Office of Railroads for the Massachusetts Department Transportation. With the help of State Senator Bruce Tarr, town officials will be meeting with higher-ups at the MassDOT to discuss the issue over the coming weeks.

“We want to make sure they hear us loud and clear and that we don’t have to revisit this again,” said Begonis. “It seems like every 3-4 years we’re going through the same circumstance.”

“I’m concerned greatly about this subject,” said Selectman Ed Loud told Begonis and Cavanaugh. “This has to stop. Lives matter. Thank you for addressing this situation.”

Selectman Greg Bendel concurred, and asked if the Selectmen could draft a letter of support, and if the MBTA could install some sort of technology that allows the conductor to know when an emergency vehicle is approaching.

Begonis noted the station is very small with some site distant issues for conductors. The station’s car signs – which help the conductor decide where to stop – need to be expanded. Additionally, the platform “leaves a lot to be desired,” as it’s in a deteriorating state. There’s corrosion to the surface, not making it conducive for people coming and going with luggage. The area is also not very aesthetically pleasing, with trash strewn about. Begonis hopes to address all these issues with the MassDOT.

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4 thoughts

  1. The Town of Wilmington pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to have two train stations in Wilmington. I believe the amount is $513,122 (a statutory charge). See page 68 of the 2018 Budget book. https://www.wilmingtonma.gov/sites/wilmingtonma/files/uploads/fy_2018_budget_3_budget_book.pdf
    The Town of Wilmington should receive compensation for the problem that the MBTA is creating.
    There is plenty of money to move the train platform further down, however, a train engineer with a simple clue should be able to get the train across route 62 so as to not hold up traffic or first responders. Our public safety departments have known this has been a problem for a long time. They should have been taking action way sooner.

  2. Agreed..there also is the ongoing problem of kids & adults trying to cross Rte 129 to access Yentile Park…Lives absolutely do matter. Hopefully something is done soon.

  3. I was informed by someone in the Public Safety Building that a man bled to death with an arterial bleed on that date at Salem Street while first responders were held up by a train. In a town like this where we pay such high taxes to live in, it is absolutely despicable that something like this would happen. Wilmington is a big town and there needs to be a minimum of 2 more public safety buildings dispersed accross the town. Look at Billerica, they are a bigger town but have 5 fire stations and are in talks of a 6th one. Meanwhile Wilmington can’t even get a second one. If the town manager’s father was the one who bled to death I’m sure that talks would heat up real fast. But he lives in Billerica and doesn’t have to worry about this.

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