Wilmington Board of Selectmen meeting with reps from the MBTA and Keolis

State Representative David Robertson (not pictured) recently attended a Wilmington Board of Selectmen meeting where the board invited representatives from the MBTA and Keolis to discuss the recent tragic death of a Wilmington resident and the steps taken to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Board of Sel­ectmen met on April 11, 2022 at 7 p.m.

The main item for discussion involved the MBTA, the Massachu­setts Bay Transportation Au­tho­rity, regarding the rail crossing operations and efforts to address light and gate functions.

Gonneville, the Deputy General Manager of the MBTA, spoke to the board about the matter and gave a Powerpoint presentation. He brought with him the President of Ke­olis North America am­ong other colleagues. Ke­olis is a partner with the MBTA and contractor responsible for overseeing the operations of railroads.

Gonneville said that “as­sembled here tonight is the leadership team responsible for the operation of the railroad.”

Chairwoman Lilia Ma­selli provided some background context, stating that a fatal accident that happened on Jan. 21, 2022 was “jarring to all of us.”

She noted how the accident could have been avoidable and how residents are becoming more aware of the safety is­sues regarding railroad crossings, plus how cros­sing arms have been down with no cause and do not seem to work as they should.

The presentation given by the MBTA and Gon­neville discussed the ac­cident, which he said is still under an active in­vestigation. But while they couldn’t discuss much, they described some of the safety features Keolis has implemented since then. This involves refresher training for all maintainers on crossing gates, how dispatchers are supposed to receive information on work being done to gates, new signage being put up to ensure that appropriate checks are being made, and maintainers being required to stay on site until the luggage of a train to verify the functionality of the gates.

Gonneville then talked about the impact they have on the community, with 11 crossings present in the town. He then talk­ed about how the MBTA is overseen by the FRA, and how they are inspected, tested, and go above and beyond their safety requirements.

He talked about how grade crossings work, and the three key issues of salt causing unnecessary gate closures, wir­ing and controls and broken gates, and action steps taken to fix these issues.

The selectmen expres­sed their thoughts and asked questions regarding the information presented, including safety measures, where to place signs, timeline of the investigation, and more. Those questions and comments were addres­sed and explained by the MBTA General Manager and the leadership team he brought with him.

State Representative David Robertson made an appearance and made remarks. He thanked the board and selectmen for being great liaisons in regards to the current state of events, and thanked the MBTA leaders for being there that evening.

He and others looked at historical data of previous snowstorms to look for any pattern or spike in these sorts of events. Robertson said he found a situation in Colorado where someone was killed in a similar way to the Jan. 21 tragic accident. He said that he is looking at the safety measures that Colorado implemented to see if the same could be done here in Wil­mington.

He said that while there is still work to be done, these are good “concrete steps in the right direction.”

After some audience discussion, where they expressed their thoughts and asked questions, there was a recess ta­ken, and chairwoman Maselli thanked the MBTA team for coming.

The discussion on this topic took about an hour of the meeting time.

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