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New train gate lowers onto cars, drawing concern | Local News

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BEVERLY — For motorists trying to turn left off Russell Street onto Cabot Street, they should mind the railroad gate, or it could lower on top of their car.

A new gate was installed across Russell Street as part of the $20 million Rantoul Street/Route 1A reconstruction project wrapping up this fall.

MBTA officials said the gate needed to go in, to the dismay of city officials.

“We asked them ‘Is it really necessary?’ and they said ‘yes,'” said Mike Collins, public services and engineering commissioner.

Before there was only one gate, he said, that would go across Route 1A/Cabot Street. This would also block motorists turning right onto Cabot from Russell when the train passes. But MBTA officials said another gate was needed for safety purposes.

“It’s odd and it’s not ideal,” Collins said. “We’re working with the railroad now that things are in their final configuration.”

He said the city is questioning if the gate really is needed.

The threat of having the gate land on top of a vehicle comes when a motorist is inching their way out from Russell onto Cabot to make a left, Collins said. As the car pulls forward, it goes beneath where the gate comes down. If the motorist can’t make their left and a train is about to come through, the gate will drop on top.

One motorist called police Thursday night over the gate issue. Beverly police noted that at 7:47 p.m., a motorist was stopped on Russell Street when the gate lowered on top of their vehicle. They then pulled to the right and the second gate across Route 1A landed on top of their vehicle.

No report was written and no citations were issued, according to Officer Mike Boccuzzi, department spokesman. The gates weren’t damaged either.

Overall the city has five train stations and 17 public railroad crossings. There’s also a few over private ways, according to Kevin Harutunian, chief of staff to Mayor Mike Cahill.

Concern over the intersection and the gates has been brought to Ward 3 City Councilor Jim Latter, who represents the area.

“I’ve had a couple of residents express concern about that,” he said.

While the matter has been brought to City Council, Latter said he wanted to see how the reconstruction project would effect things and if the concern continued afterward.

One potential solution is making Russell Street a one-way toward the high school, eliminating that turn onto Cabot and reversing the direction of Kittredge Street so it would go in the other direction.

“I’m very amenable to getting it changed,” Latter said.

He acknowledged that the intersection is problematic.

“That’s about as bad as you can imagine to construct it,” he said.

Harutunian said the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission looked at the intersection about a year ago and didn’t come up with a recommendation of how a fix.

As Beverly is an old city, Latter pointed out that railroad crossings were sometimes designed before automobiles hit the streets. Ideally, all railroad crossings would be perpendicular to the roads.

 In Hamilton, Collins said there’s a similar railroad crossing at Bay and Walnut roads where the gates have come down on cars.

But he said these gates, like the ones in Beverly, are brought down by gravity and lifted with a motor. They simply come down and touch the car.

“Some people panic and speed away, and break the gate,” he said. “We’re not alone. It’s these complex intersections like this that create the situation. … As alarming as it sounds, it’s not unusual.”

Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-338-2527 or at amacneill@salemnews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SN_AMacNeill. 

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