HULL: Town Officials Are Not Relenting On Rail Crossing Issues

Below is a press statement from the Town Manager:

WILMINGTON, MA — It is unfortunate and unproductive to see a recent Letter to the Editor account in the “Wilmington Apple” suggesting Town officials could have prevented the tragic passing of Ms. Robert Sausville Devin.  While it is true that this tragedy was preventable the culpable parties are not Wilmington officials.  The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is a product of the Massachusetts state legislature and was created in 1964.  Neither Wilmington nor any of the other communities served by the MBTA have direct control over their operations. The MBTA is run by a general manager who reports to a board of directors.  The Town of Wilmington is subject to an MBTA assessment because the Town hosts two boarding locations.  However, there is no ability to withhold the assessment because the Commonwealth reduces the amount of local aid coming to the Town by the amount of that MBTA assessment.

Town officials have engaged in multiple discussions with Wilmington’s legislative delegation and representatives from the MBTA expressing our frustration with the lack of responsiveness to the accident that claimed the life of a Wilmington resident and to the many subsequent irregularities with respect to the grade crossing gates and lights.  Steven Poftak, MBTA General Manager, and his management team are keenly aware that Town officials are not satisfied with the operations of rail crossings in Wilmington and their response to them and will not relent in our demand for answers that improve the performance of the rail crossing warning devices.  While we have been very blunt with our assessment about their handling of the rail crossing issues, if progress is to be made it will only be made if there is a constructive working relationship with the individuals who are responsible for and possess the authority to operate the transit system.

Currently Board of Selectmen Chair Lil Maselli, Selectman Judy O’Connell, our legislative delegation, and I have a standing meeting every other Wednesday with the leadership at the MBTA.  We have pressed them to explain the causes of the irregular function of the rail crossing gates how the issues can be addressed.  There are no easy or quick fixes. According to MBTA officials and as have been documented in recent news accounts these issues are not unique to Wilmington.  It is not a productive use of Town resources to have police officers stationed at the North Wilmington rail crossing or any of the other crossings throughout Town each time a train passes through these rail crossings.  The MBTA is responsible for ensuring that the rail crossing safety features are reliable and function to protect motorists and pedestrians who pass over at grade crossings.  We will continue to insist on no less.

Jeffrey M. Hull

Town Manager, Town of Wilmington

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