LONGMEADOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser applauded the news Thursday that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has committed approximately $700,000 to help Amtrak make safety improvements at the public railroad crossing on Birnie Road in Longmeadow. Amtrak, which owns the railroad line and is carrying out the project, will fund the remaining costs.
“This is tremendous news for a community that has long requested safety improvements at this hazardous railroad crossing, after five deaths since 1975, most recently DPW worker Warren Cowles. Thank you to MassDOT and Amtrak for working together on behalf of our community, and to Senator Markey, who has championed this issue in Washington. It is imperative that the crossing at Birnie Road is made safe again so that no family will have to suffer a tragic loss like those the Cowles family and others have had to bear,” said Sen. Lesser.
Cowles, a Longmeadow Department of Public Works foreman, was killed on March 14, 2017 when a train struck the snowplow he was operating to clear the tracks during last year’s late-season snowstorm.
Cowles’ death, the fifth at the Birnie Road rail crossing since 1975, rallied the community to demand safety improvements. Sen. Lesser’s office has been in frequent contact with state transportation officials and the office of U.S. Senator Ed Markey, who worked to get the issue on Amtrak’s agenda.
In the wake of the accident, the community worked together to raise awareness about the dangerousness of the crossing and the need for safety improvements. Neighbors attended Longmeadow town meetings and worked with the Longmeadow Fire, DPW and police departments to erect temporary barriers and signage to keep the crossing safe.
Permanent safety measures, which will be installed by Amtrak, will include the installation of a new gate and warning lights and a power system to support this infrastructure. The work is expected to begin in 2019.