City urges MBTA to maintain fencing along commuter rail corridor

On November 8, 2017, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

The lack of adequate fencing along the MBTA commuter rail corridor is a cause of great concern for Somerville and neighboring community residents, according to a recent resolution put forward at the latest Board of Aldermen meeting.

By Jim Clark

At the most recent regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen on Thursday, October 26, a resolution was put forward by Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston asking that the city urge the MBTA to maintain the fencing along the commuter rail corridor, to prevent the needless loss of life.

Heuston cited recent instances of fatal encounters between commuter trains and pedestrians who had gained entry into the rail corridor due to inadequate fencing.

A letter addressed to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez outlining the dangers of the current situation was prepared and sent by Alderman Heuston, who asked the other members of the Board to sign on to the resolution.

The main body letter reads as follows:

“On Wednesday, October 11th, a Somerville woman was killed on the commuter rail train tracks adjacent to Washington Street, Somerville, near the Argenziano School. As can be imagined, the family and friends of this woman deeply mourn her passing and have been grappling with this tragedy.

While the cause of this fatality remains under investigation, it is clear that the lack of fencing and repairs to fencing along this stretch of train tracks, allowing people to veer into unsafe areas, most certainly is something that is cause for concern. Easy access to dangerous areas is something that should be addressed and monitored when fencing that was installed to protect people, and even animals, from trains is in disrepair and no longer offers that protection.

Along this particular stretch of tracks in Somerville there are several large gaps in fencing, all the more for concerning since these gaps are easily accessible from properties adjacent to the tracks as well as the Argenziano School.

On Saturday, October 13th, there was a detailed report in the Boston Globe which referenced the 72 deaths by trains since the start of the 2014 fiscal year. It spoke of the fact the MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez has formed a working group to study solutions to the problem. A portion of the article speaks of the need for better fencing, and one man who lost his daughter near his home in Mansfield in 2008 said that had there been better fencing it would have prevented his daughter’s death, that fencing near his home was in “shameful disrepair,” and that fencing should be more regularly updated. The Federal government has also called on transit systems to add fencing and other barriers along tracks. While I applaud the many efforts to find solutions and prevent rail deaths, the fact is that even though the MBTA was present on Wednesday to investigate and respond to this tragedy, the fence remains unrepaired and other large openings in fencing along the commuter rail tracks in Somerville also remain unrepaired.

It is important to protect the safety of our citizens and it does not take a study group to see that access to tracks in areas where there was fencing and where fencing has been compromised is a problem and one that should be, and can be, immediately addressed. Preventive maintenance also needs to be constant. One way is the use of a camera installed on the trains to detect problem areas as well as a hotline to encourage reports by citizens. “No Trespassing” signage, while present at other locations along the track, was not present at this location.

As the Ward Two Alderman representing the area of Somerville where this accident happened, I am asking for a call to action by the MBTA to identify and address barriers and fencing along the commuter rail tracks that are in disrepair and allow easy access to the tracks.

This is a plea to insure the safety of our community and to avoid another such tragedy in the future.”

The resolution passed unanimously and all Board members signed on as co-sponsors. The letter was subsequently sent to the aforementioned officials.


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