Train in vain


WAKEFIELD, MA — The closure since last November of the Broadway commuter rail crossing has certainly been no picnic for many, and the damage to nearby businesses is not to be minimized.

At the same time, I’m an optimist by nature, and in the spirit of this week’s theme of arcane 1970s pop culture references, remember the Monty Python tune, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?” That’s me to a T.

So, I’ve long suspected that at least some Broadway residents may harbor mixed feelings when it comes to the railroad crossing closure. They might not say it out loud, but it wouldn’t surprise me if more than a few Broadway residents are secretly enjoying life on a quiet residential street as opposed to the New England Dragway.

Right now, they have a neighborhood that’s relatively free of speeding traffic and, for now at least, the trains aren’t sounding their horns.

If, as some are demanding, the town were to open the Broadway crossing now, without approval of the Federal Railroad Administration, the entire town would lose its Quiet Zone status. That means trains would sound their horns as they approach each of the town’s six crossings.

forest_street_tenderImagine Greenwood neighbors’ delight at hearing several loud horn blasts seconds apart as trains rumble through the crossings at Greenwood and Forest streets, which are separated by about 1,000 feet.

That would be heaven compared to what lower West Side residents would have to endure as every rush hour train blasts its horn at each of the four crossings along the half-mile stretch between Broadway and Prospect Street.

Ask someone who lived on Emerson Street in the 1980s what it was like. There’s a reason we have a Quiet Zone. Residents demanded it. If the town were to open the crossing tomorrow and let the trains sound their horns, the first ones to criticize that decision would be the same people now complaining that the crossing is closed.

Again, the harm to area businesses is regrettable to say nothing of the inconvenience to upper West Siders who can no longer get to Caporale’s and back during commercial breaks on the View.


The closure has also no doubt impacted traffic at other crossings, especially Albion Street, which is bad news for those eager to blame the as yet unoccupied Harvard Mills apartments for the gridlock in that area.

The current situation stinks, no doubt about it. But those blaming the town are on the wrong track. And the current Town Engineer isn’t responsible for this train wreck either. He just inherited it. Every time he meets the FRA’s requirements, the feds move the crossing gates a little further way.

If this problem isn’t resolved soon, might I suggest letting the Boys & Girls Club take a crack at it?

I hear there’s nothing they can’t do.

[This column originally appeared in the June 17, 2021 Wakefield Daily Item.]

2 Responses to “Train in vain”

  1. 1 Meredith Zahlaway

    Mark, Love your posts! Your point of view is right on! Your salty sarcasm/tongue-in-cheek humor always makes me chuckle. I feel so hopeful that common sense sanity will prevail! Happy Fourth! Meredith Black Zahlaway WHS class of 1965 Sent from my iPhone


    • 2 Mark Sardella

      Thank you Meredith. How nice of you to say that!

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