MBTA, Keolis impose safety measures after fatal crash at road crossing

After citing human error in a fatal January crash between a commuter rail train and a motor vehicle, the MBTA and Keolis retrained staff responsible for testing railroad crossing protection systems and will deploy several other new safety practices, officials said.

A new set of policies the T and Keolis announced Tuesday evening will require additional communication, observation and signage at roadway crossings to ensure crossing gates do not fail to activate after testing and maintenance work.

Moving forward, whenever a worker completes testing on a railroad crossing protection system, officials will require commuter rail dispatchers to request and receive affirmation from the signal maintainer that the system is enabled. The maintainer must also remain on location to ensure the system functions properly when the next train passes and, if necessary, deploy it manually.

Officials continue to investigate the Jan. 21 crash at a railroad crossing on Middlesex Avenue in Wilmington, which killed Roberta Sausville.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said last month that a Keolis signal maintainer had been conducting regular testing and maintenance on the crossing's safety system but failed to return it to normal operating mode afterward, which prevented the crossing gates from "coming down in a timely manner as the train approached."

A spokesperson for Keolis, which is contracted to operate the commuter rail system for the T, said Wednesday that the worker remains on leave pending the completion of the investigation.

Lawmakers who represent Wilmington praised the new safety provisions the MBTA and Keolis outlined, stressing that the failures leading up to the fatal crash "must not be repeated."

"In the wake of the tragic loss of life that occurred, we welcome the implementation of these important steps to prevent any similar accidents from occurring in the future," Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Rep. David Robertson and Rep. Kenneth Gordon said in a joint statement. "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. We intend to continue that discussion with transit leaders and town officials. We need to do everything in our power to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again."


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