WILMINGTON - The Town of Wilmington continues to grapple with the challenges posed by the North Wilmington train station.
Senator Bruce Tarr and State Representatives Dave Robertson and Ken Gordon appeared at a Board of Selectmen meeting in order to describe a potential initiative to curb the amount of time inbound trains block Middlesex Avenue.
Tarr called minimizing the time the train is in the road as a short-term goal, and said that the MBTA has already made efforts toward this goal. The long-term goal, according to Tarr, is a commitment to revitalizing the station and providing the infrastructure necessary to allow the train to pull completely out of the street. In order to make this long-term goal possible, the town will need to obtain waivers in order to build a platform that may not be fully in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act as interpreted by the federal government.
A short-term change also proposed by Tarr, Robertson, and Gordon is the elimination of select flag stops at the North Wilmington station at very low traffic times. Normal service during rush hour would not be affected, and the modification could be cancelled in as soon as sixth months.
Tarr said that he thought it critical that any decision made be made in a public forum.
“Every time we reduce the number of stops, we reduce the chance of (an incident related to the blocked road) happening, but there is a balance there that we have to reach together,” said Tarr.
Robertson reiterated that normal train service during peak hours would continue.
“We’re not touching any of those which had regular ridership. These are just kind of trains showing up to empty ghost platforms. That’s all,” said Robertson.
According to MBTA Deputy Administrator John Ray, a non-flag stop would cause the roadway to be blocked for roughly 20 seconds. If the train slows for a flag stop, even if it does not ultimately stop, the roadway is blocked for over a minute.
Selectman Michael McCoy expressed concern with any of the potential stops being eliminated.
“I would want to see none of those stops discontinued,” said McCoy, characterizing the situation as a funding issue and arguing that residents need to be able to get into town at even non-peak times.
Selectman Jonathan Eaton added that he was uncomfortable with the prospect of cutting public transit to the town, especially when the most recent data for the stop would continue to be cited as low ridership numbers.
Fire Chief Joseph McMahon stated that there have been five instances of the train blocking the road since January. He stated that this is an improvement, but still not ideal.
Regarding the plans proposed by Tarr, Robertson, and Gordon, McMahon expressed confidence in the proposal and the research that had gone into it.
“We’re not taking anything away from the fact that this will inconvenience people,” said McMahon. “But we support the efforts.”