FRA and MaineDOT to test rail trespassing system

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded a research grant for the city of Brunswick, Maine, the Northern New England Passenger Authority (NNEPRA) and the Maine Department of Transportation, among other partners, to participate in a field research program to develop and test new trespass detection and deterrent technologies.


The research will consist of designing, operating and evaluating a large-scale trespass detection and deterrent system to mitigate trespassing along several high-risk areas along the Pan Am Railway and Amtrak’s Downeaster rail line in the Brunswick area.

“Illegal trespassing is the No. 1 cause of rail-related fatalities in the United States,” said Main Gov. Paul LePage. “We welcome this opportunity to use the latest in technology as a means to reduce or prevent injuries and fatalities and to increase safety for Mainers.”

The project will utilize remote presence detection sensors and secure, wireless cameras at locations frequented by trespassers. Upon detecting a person on the tracks, the Brunswick Police Department will be immediately notified for appropriate response.


The testing of the various devices will determine their feasibility and effectiveness for trespass prevention. The three-year research project is funded by a $200,000 interagency agreement between FRA to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

“As we see continued growth in the rail industry in Maine, we need to do all we can to ensure safety along these busy rail lines,” said MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt. “This also serves as a reminder that walking along railroad tracks is trespassing on private property. Efforts like this will help cut down on the number of trespassing injuries and fatalities.”

This study is a follow up to a 2001-2004 pilot project in Pittsford, N.Y., utilizing updated technology and covering a wider area. These studies complement other efforts by the FRA to combat trespassing, such as the 2012 Trespass Demographic Study, a Right-of-Way Fatality & Trespass Prevention Workshop and FRA’s ongoing partnership with Operation Lifesaver, Inc., to educate the public on the dangers of trespassing.