Goshen Officials Irate Over Blocked Crossings

Officials in Goshen, Indiana, are unhappy these days with Norfolk Southern over what they describe as increasing delays caused by freight trains blocking grade crossings.

They have accused the railroad of violating an agreement that a few specific train crossings would always remain open unless a train had mechanical difficulties.

But Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said almost all of the crossings on the north side of town have been blocked for the last four to five days with only a few hours a day where they’ve been open.

The mayor attributed that to trains being parked in Goshen waiting to get into a classification yard in nearby Elkhart.

Goshen is located nine miles east of Elkhart on the busy Chicago Line. It is also the junction between the Chicago Line and the Marion District, which diverges at Goshen to head southward.

City officials said upward of about 100 trains a day pass through Goshen. Some trains have been stopped for hours.

Goshen Fire Chief Dan Sink said his crews have had to adjust their routes so that any call on Wilden Avenue automatically uses an overpass.
“The station having to take the overpass puts them starting their call at the far end of their district and it will affect timeliness, but at least we’re ensuring getting someone across the tracks,” he said. “It’s hard for me to believe that Norfolk Southern is allowed to do all this without any accountability. It’s frustrating.”

Stutsman said his efforts to work out the issue with NS have thus far failed to produce any results.

 “We fully understand and respect what Norfolk [Southern] and the train system does for the country as far as getting goods around, helping businesses and getting us what we need,” he said. “We understand the lack of employees right now and the supply chain issues. We don’t want to be a hindrance, but we do want to be a partner.”
Among the solutions that city officials are seeking is to get NS to install relay equipment that would notify the city when crossing gates are down in order to create a real-time website for public safety agencies to use to route around blocked crossings.

NS said it wouldn’t allow city officials to have access to equipment that could provide that information.

An alternative the city is pursuing is using another company that could monitor NS operations, but it would need to erect poles on railroad property.

Stutsman said the city has not asked NS to pay for anything related to that project.

In the meantime, Stutsman said he’s received reports that motorists are speeding through neighborhood trying to beat trains to crossings.

 “That is so very dangerous and we don’t want that happening,” he said. “There’s a multitude of issues that keep arising with having our crossings blocked this often.”
In a statement to the Goshen News an NS spokesman said the railroads seeks to keep its trains moving and that means avoiding blocking grade crossings.

“But sometimes trains do have to stop,” said Norfolk Southern Media Relations Manager Connor Spielmaker. “Reasons can include congestion in a railyard, traffic ahead on the track, maintenance issues, or crews that have reached the maximum federally allowed working hours.”

The statement said NS is working with Goshen officials “to seek long-term solutions to alleviate blocked crossings” and working to keep trains moving efficiently to” minimize these types of impacts as much as possible.”

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