MBTA Denies Gates Were Up While A Train Was Traveling Through The MBTA North Wilmington Commuter Rail Crossing On Feb. 18

Town Of Wilmington Statement

The Board of Selectmen is aware that once again faulty operations at the North Wilmington commuter rail crossing occurred.  Early this morning (Friday, February 18, 2022) at 12:19 a.m. crossing arms came down across Middlesex Avenue and remained in the horizontal position reportedly requiring a representative from Keolis, the company hired by the MBTA to operate the commuter rail, to correct the problem.  At 6:44 a.m. this morning as a commuter train was passing over the crossing at Middlesex Avenue the crossing arms failed to activate to extend across Middlesex Avenue in a timely manner that would provide pedestrian or motor vehicle traffic adequate time to respond.

These incidents and reports of other grade crossing equipment failures at the Glen Road rail crossing have occurred less than a month after the completely avoidable tragedy that took the life of Wilmington resident Roberta Sausville Devine.  The fact that Ms. Sausville Devine lost her life to what has been stated by MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak as “human error” is unacceptable. In immediate response to that tragedy the Board of Selectmen and our state legislative delegation communicated with MBTA representatives and implored them to take immediate steps to address failures either of a technical or human nature to ensure that the safety devices at the rail crossing in north Wilmington and throughout town function properly.  The Board also insisted that the MBTA issue a communication explaining the steps being taken to ensure the safety of the crossings. The MBTA has failed to issue any such communication and, as has become abundantly clear, failed to take these matters seriously enough to take steps that provide reliable safety equipment at the north Wilmington rail crossing.  At present, the Board is working with our State Senator Bruce Tarr and State Representatives Kenneth Gordon and David Robertson to schedule a meeting with MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak to reiterate that their response has been completely lacking and to demand that he makes addressing the safety at the north Wilmington rail crossing and all MBTA crossings in Wilmington priority 1. 

As the Board does not have statutory authority over the MBTA commuter rail operation and its infrastructure, we will be working with the legislative delegation to hold the MBTA accountable to provide safe grade crossings for residents and non-residents passing through our community.

MBTA Statement

In response to a press release issued by the Town at 4 pm today addressing concerns about reported anomalies in the operation of the safety equipment at the MBTA commuter rail crossing at Middlesex Avenue in north Wilmington the MBTA has issued the following statement:

The railroad crossing’s safety system this morning performed as it was designed to. 

When snow piles melt and the water mixes with salt that was used to treat roads, ponding can occur in the tracks at railroad crossings.  Upon sensing something occupying the space between the rails (shortly after midnight), the safety system’s gates were automatically lowered (as designed).  This is the manner in which crossing systems around the world operate.  It is not a failure nor a malfunction of the crossing’s safety system.  From shortly after midnight until mid-morning, all trains came to a stop, approximately 50 feet before entering the Middlesex Avenue crossing.  It’s at this location where the train interacts with track circuits that trigger the lowering of the gates, allowing the train to roll through the crossing at a slow rate of speed.  By mid-to-late morning, the railroad right-of-way was clear of salt-filled water, and the crossing system and trains returned tostandard operation.  At no point today were the gates up while a train was travelling through the crossing.

– Angel Donahue-Rodriguez, Deputy Chief of Staff, MBTA

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