Still waiting for feds to OK re-opening Broadway crossing

Published May 26, 2021


WAKEFIELD — The wait continues for the Broadway commuter rail crossing to re-open, as Town Engineer Bill Renault updated the Town Council this week on several ongoing engineering projects around town.
Renault reminded the Town Council that the Federal Railroad Administration ordered the crossing to remain closed in November, after some construction by National Grid and the town last fall had caused the crossing to be closed temporarily.
The reason, Renault said, was that the FRA had determined that Wakefield was not meeting the safety requirements at its railroad/street crossings to a degree sufficient to maintain its quiet zone, whereby trains are not required to sound their horns when approaching street crossings. Keeping Broadway closed was the only way to keep the quiet zone.

FINISHING TOUCHES are put on the new poured concrete sidewalk beside the Item Building as part of the ongoing improvement project on Albion Street between downtown and North Avenue. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

Re-opening the crossing would have caused the town to lose its quiet zone status, Renault said. He reminded the board that Wakefield was a “pre-rule quiet zone” meaning that the town has a much lower threshold for compliance. If the town were to open Broadway before getting FRA approval and lose its quiet zone, Renault said, the town would have to reapply under the current, much more restrictive rules. 
Renault’s latest proposed changes to the various Wakefield crossings were submitted this month to the FRA. He believed these changes would bring the town into quiet zone compliance and allow Broadway to re-open. The FRA agreed with his calculations on five of the six crossings, Renault said, but disagreed with some of what he was claiming at the Prospect Street crossing. So, it’s back to the drawing board.
Renault said that once the FRA gives the OK, the town can have the Broadway crossing open in a matter of days.
Renault also updated the Town Council on a drainage project in Greenwood. He said that the issue was identified in a 2016 townwide drainage study and involves increasing the size of a culvert at Grafton Street to 30 inches and installing new 24-inch overflow pipe down Maple Street with an easement on private property.
Draft plans have been developed, Renault said, but the work will require coordinating with Melrose to upsize an outfall pipe that would empty in that city. He said that talks with Melrose are ongoing.
The Town Engineer also reviewed the status of the Rail to Trail project, which will run from Wakefield (area of the Galvin Middle School) through Lynnfield to Peabody.
He noted that after the 25 percent design plans were filed and comments from MassDOT were received, a 25 percent design hearing was held in 2019.
He said that the design contract has been finalized to advance the design to the “plans, specs and estimates” stage.
He noted that National Grid will be paving the old railroad bed from Richardson Street to Salem Street as part its underground transmission line project, which will double as a section of the Rail Trail. But that section will be closed to the public until more of the trail is completed.
The remainder of the project is on MassDOT’s 2024 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), Renault said. Construction is expected to take about two years, with the trail potentially being ready for use by 2026.
Renault reviewed the status of the DPW’s road improvement program. At the Annual Town Meeting in May 2020, voters approved a $19 million long-range plan to upgrade and improve the town’s roads. He said that the program was delayed somewhat by COVID and he presented an extensive list of roads that are currently under construction or on the list for improvements this year and in 2022. 
Renault also reviewed a list of 30 potential water main projects with six identified as priorities to be completed this year in order to stay ahead of road improvements planned for 2022.
Renault talked about the current Albion Street work, which is funded through a $400,000 “Complete Streets” grant and involves sidewalk and paving rehabilitation from Main Street to North Avenue. 
The project also includes installing new curb bump-outs and green space along the street. He noted that sidewalks were poured this week.
The Albion Street project is scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2021.
Renault also reviewed some improvements to Greenwood Center recently completed through a Shared Streets grant, including ADA improvements for the intersection, sidewalk work, bump-outs with green space and way-finding signs.