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I-Team: Railroad Safety Expert Says Changes At Wilmington Train Crossings Are Not Enough

WILMINGTON (CBS) - MBTA crews were out recently working on improving drainage on tracks in Wilmington. The project is part of an effort to reduce the number of incidents involving issues when railroad crossing gates came down without a train approaching.

Carl Berkowitz, a railroad safety expert tells WBZ-TV's I-Team that type of work is basic maintenance and shouldn't be seen as "improvements."

"This is the kind of things you normally do in maintaining the system," Berkowitz said. "Why all of a sudden did they wake up to the fact that they need to do ordinary maintenance?"

Wilmington has 11 rail crossings. The track maintenance stepped up after Roberta Sausville Devine was killed driving across the Middlesex Avenue Railroad crossing in January. In that case, the gates failed to come down and Roberta had no warning a train was coming.

Residents WBZ spoke to say since the tragic accident, they either avoid that crossing or stop every time they get to the tracks.

Since Roberta's death there have been nearly two dozen problems with crossing gates in Wilmington.

The I-Team has learned that the T is now installing cameras on the signal boxes at the crossings. We asked Berkowitz if those cameras will be helpful in preventing accidents. He says unless the train operator can see the video from the camera it won't do much to keep people safe.

"We have to provide track technology and track information and all this information has to be real-time to the train operator," Berkowitz said. "If it's not shared at a time when he can make a timely decision, what value is it?"

The MBTA says the operators will not be able to see the video and that the cameras are being used to collect data.

"The installation of cameras at the Wilmington grade crossings is part of a broader initiative to provide additional information for analysis of gate function and maintenance activities," the MBTA said in a statement.

"The video from the cameras will not be monitored in real-time by locomotive engineers or crews operating through the area; rather the footage will be downloaded to support data analysis for maintenance purposes."

Keolis and the MBTA planned to present their plans for improvements and upgrades to the town at the board of selectman meeting Monday night.

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