MBTA makes safety upgrades at Commuter Rail crossings after ongoing incidents

A major safety upgrade is happening at Commuter Rail crossings across the region. The fix is one of MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng's top priorities.

There are 246 surface crossings in the Commuter Rail system.

Crews have added lane and fog lines, reflective bollards and markers in the road. There are also new brighter LED lights that are being installed at the crossing gates.

"It doesn't cost much and we can implement it quickly," said Eng.

Keolis, the operator of the Commuter Rail, said the cost of the upgrades is about $600,000.

"I think it was the right thing to do because it was all about safety," said Abdellah Chajai, the CEO of Keolis.

The MBTA is even working with popular apps like Waze. You can now see the crossings right on the maps and it alerts drivers as to what is ahead.

"Something that was a big focus of mine at Long Island Railroad in New York and a big focus of mine now that I'm here in the Commonwealth," said Eng.

In fact, when Eng spearheaded a similar initiative on Long Island, reports of cars and trucks on tracks went from 21 per year down to three, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration. And Eng points to MBTA data that it's already working here in Massachusetts.

In just a four-month span, from July to October, the number of broken gate incidents went from 96 last year down to 68 this year.

"The numbers over the first four months are very promising and obviously we will monitor for the rest of the year and beyond," said Eng.

In May, the NBC10 Boston Investigators highlighted the problem in Abington, where 6 people have been killed at railroad crossings in the last 25 years. There were three fatalities in just the last year. For years, the town pleaded with the MBTA to make the crossings safer.

Eng said what they're doing now is a proven way to solve the problem.

"We want the folks that live there to know that we are just as focused on community safety as we are on Commuter Rail safety," said Eng.

Transit advocate Stacy Thompson applauds the new safety measures.

"These are the kinds of things we like to see the T doing," she said.

Thompson, who is the executive director of the LivableStreets Alliance, said it's important that Eng is bringing an outside perspective and working to fix a problem with a relatively inexpensive solution.

"You're not going to get a ribbon cutting after you painted 2 or 300 crossings," said Thompson. "You just do this because it's a good best practice."

"Every single incident that we avoid is a life that we potential save and that's key to me," said Eng.