WALLINGFORD — The police department will participate in a national campaign next week to raise awareness of railroad safety.
Local police will work with the Amtrak Police Department and Operation Lifesaver Inc., a nonprofit rail safety education organization. Police departments from 48 states will be a part of the initiative known as “Operation Clear Track,” in which more than 600 law enforcement agencies will enforce state railroad grade crossing and trespassing laws.
Sgt. David Blythe said the local Community Police Division will be stationed near the rail crossings on Hall Avenue and Quinnipiac Street. Officers will distribute rail safety educational materials on Tuesday. The area was chosen because police feel it is the safest place to handout material in traffic.
“It’s not as busy, doesn’t have multiple lanes, it’s a safer area to stand in the streets,” Blythe said.
Kevin Burns, state coordinator for Operation Lifesaver, said 11 police departments throughout the state will participate in the initiative. On Monday, a proclamation on Rail Safety Week will be read at the Wallingford Train Station.
Approximately 2,000 people are killed or injured in grade crossing and trespassing incidents nationwide each year.
The town has a history of railway related injuries and fatalities, according to Record-Journal archives. In 2012, a man was struck and killed by a train near North Colony Road and Yale Avenue. In 2016, Brittany Tine, 24, and Robert Webb, 29, were struck by a train while they were walking along the tracks. Tine died instantly of blunt trauma injuries and Webb was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital with a “severe hand injury.”
“So far in Connecticut, there were seven fatalities last year,” Burns said. “This year there were three.”
Blythe worked in the traffic division in the ’80s and recalled multiple accidents in areas like Toelles Road before gates were installed. The premise of the initiative is to bring about change through educating the public, he said.
“Unfortunately one of the first train fatalities I happened to be assigned to investigate involved a motorist who I went to high school with,” Blythe said. “I’d rather educate the public than have to investigate anything like that.”