2013-09-16 / Front Page

You! Get off the tracks

Brunswick-Freeport chosen for rail trespass system test
BY JT LEONARD Times Record Staff

BRUNSWICK

A new kind of railroad trespassing deterrence system soon will be tested along the tracks between Brunswick and Freeport, according to state transportation officials.

Maine Department of Transportation learned Thursday that it will receive a grant from the Federal Rail Administration to pay for the system, which includes remote sensors, wireless video cameras and other high-tech gadgetry intended to keep people away from dangerous sections of track.

Testing for the experimental system will run for three years, said MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot, “and we can keep the equipment after that.”

The FRA was scheduled to announce the grant award Friday. However, the monetary amount of the grant or when it likely would be effective has not been released.

Neither have MDOT, NNEPRA or Brunswick — the three partners included in the grant — determined where, exactly, along the tracks the system will scan.

“It’s called a large-scale trespassing detection and deterrence system,” Talbot said. “One aspect is cameras, another is remote presence detection sensors.”

Despite the system’s complexity, the goal of its installation is fairly simple, Talbot said: “Upon detecting a person on the tracks, Brunswick Police Department is going to be immediately notified for their appropriate response.”

Digital cameras will be linked directly to a recording and public address system, allowing communications officers in the police department to tell the interloper directly — in real time — to get off the tracks.

Several ideas have been pitched to solve the trespassing problem, but this is the first to receive federal attention.

Town Councilor John Perreault favored a lower-technology approach — a fence in the more accessible, dangerous locations with signs posting the rail corridor as private property — but said he was fine with the experiment.

“I think it’s a great step, moving forward in a positive direction to mitigate what has been peceived as a problem,” Perreault said Friday.

Brunswick’s program is the follow-up to a 2001 pilot project in Pittsford, N.Y.

The difference is that, located a few miles southeast of Rochester in western New York state, Pittsford’s gauge carries more freight than people. Its rail surveillance project started when national freight carrier CSX installed cameras along the tracks in the aftermath of an accident on a railroad bridge.

Train strike fatalities in Maine are relatively rare. According to FRA safety data, nine rail trespassers have been struck by trains in Maine since 2008: three died and three others resulted in amputation of a limb.

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