MBTA, Keolis Announce Safety Enhancements At Wilmington Train Crossing

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WILMINGTON, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The MBTA and Keolis are unveiling new protocol changes at a railroad crossing on Middlesex Avenue in Wilmington after a deadly accident last month.

Sixty-year-old Roberta Sausville was killed when her car was struck by a commuter rail train because the warning system for incoming trains did not activate. The MBTA later said this was due to human error after a worker forgot to switch the system back on after performing routine maintenance.

In response, the MBTA and Keolis are unveiling new safety plans to limit human error, including retraining all maintenance workers on the proper procedure. After testing is done, commuter rail dispatchers must now get a confirmation from the worker that the protection system is online.

After they've completed testing, the worker now must remain on-site until the next train passes to make sure the safety system is working and to operate the system manually if it doesn't. Keolis will also be installing signage to serve as a visual reminder for workers to make sure the system is operational.

“I’d like to assure the community that the protection system at the Middlesex Avenue railroad crossing is safe and fully operational,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement. “On top of our regular maintenance, inspection, and testing procedures, additional rules and instructions for Commuter Rail personnel have been introduced to provide another layer of safety-related enhancements.”

In reaction to the MBTA and Keolis' new plans, State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, State Rep. David Robertson, and State Rep. Kenneth Gordon spoke out in favor of these changes.

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"We welcome the implementation of these important steps to prevent any similar accidents from occurring in the future," the statement reads. "Our efforts to support public safety and the proper functioning of commuter rail operations will continue and we encourage the MBTA and Keolis to continue to explore and act on every possible avenue to make the system more immune to human error."

One local commuter told WBZ's Jim MacKay he wasn't surprised there was an accident at the crossing because he had seen issues in the past.

"I have seen the things not come down before in the past," he said. "My heart pours out for the people that this happened to."

WBZ's Jim Mackay (@JimMackayOnAir) reports.

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