Posts Tagged ‘blocked grade crossings’

Ohio Gets Support in Rail Court Case

January 8, 2023

Nine states and the District of Columbia are supporting a case brought by the State of Ohio before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding state authority to regulate railroad grade crossings.

Ohio appealed to the high court a lower court ruling that only the U.S. Surface Transportation Board has authority to regular railroad activities at grade crossings.

The case stemmed from blocked grade crossings by CSX trains. Ohio argues in the case that CSX has frequently blocked crossings and thus impeded public safety.

Filing a brief in support of Ohio’s position was a brief submitted by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita that argued that no federal law or regulation addresses blocked crossings. Therefore state and local intervention is needed because railroads often become roadblocks to life-saving emergency care.

Briefs filed in the case cited Federal Railroad Administration reports of 25,374 blocked crossings from December 2019 to September 2021.

However, the agency only investigated 906 of them because FRA jurisdiction is limited.

Ohio and other states want the high court to rule on the question of whether, as the lower court ruled, only the STB has legal authority to regulate grade crossings.

In making their case, the states said the STB usually does not address blocked grade crossing cases and that case law is unclear as to who at the federal level has the ability to regulate blocked crossings.

Typically, states have sought to regulate grade crossings by approving laws or regulations saying how long a train may block a crossing.

A case similar to the one involving Ohio and CSX has played out in court in Kansas involving BNSF. That case arose in Chase County after a BNSF train blocked a road for more than four hours.

In dismissing the case, a Kansas appeals court cited the Ohio case ruling that only the STB can regulate railroad activities at grade crossings.

Other groups that have filed briefs in support of Ohio include the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and a joint filing from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers, and the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys. 

Ohio High Court Nixes Grade Crossing Law

August 18, 2022

An Ohio law seeking to prevent railroads from blocking grade crossings has been struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The court ruled that regulation of railroads is a federal and not a state responsibility.

The opinion of the court, which was written by Justice Sharon Kennedy, noted that blocking grade crossings can create a public danger by preventing emergency workers from crossing tracks while on runs.

But Justice Kennedy said the federal government is the appropriate body to address that threat to public safety.

The Ohio law stemmed from numerous citations issued by police in 2018 in Marysville to CSX for blocking crossings while trains worked a Honda assembly plant there.

Lima to Launch Traffic Mitigation Pilot

February 11, 2021

A pilot smart transportation project is being undertaken in Lima to mitigate traffic delays from trains blocking grade crossings.

The project will alert drivers to traffic delays caused by passing trains and provide navigation assistance.

It will use technology, some of which is still in the developmental stage, to collect data about approaching trains and provide information to drivers.

Funding for the project is being provided from the State of Ohio to Spectrum internet company and nonprofit organization US Ignite.

Lima sees an average of 35 trains a day and city official said the passage of these trains can cause long traffic delays that could hinder the ability of fire trucks and ambulances to respond to emergencies.

W.Va. Creates Page to Report Blocked Grade Crossings

November 11, 2020

A website page has been established by the Public Service Commission of West Virginia for the public to report trains that are blocking grade crossings.

State law states trains may not block a crossing for more than 10 minutes except in the case of a continuously moving train or an emergency.

Information gathered through the website will be reported to the Federal Railroad Administration for review.

“Blocked highway-rail grade crossings are becoming a major problem in West Virginia,” commission chair Charlotte Lane said in a statement.

“By reporting these issues, PSC Railroad Safety Inspectors will know where the problems are and will investigate the cause of the blockages.”

The site can be reached at

Federal Court Overrules Kentucky Blocked Crossing Law

February 1, 2020

State laws designed to discourage railroads from blocking grade crossings that have the effect of regulating railroad operations are impermissible under federal law, a judge has ruled.

The case involved a Kentucky law that was challenged by the Association of American Railroads.

A federal court in rendering the ruling in favor of AAR acknowledged that states have historically had a role in regulating local highways.

But the Kentucky law has the effect of regulating railroads and that is the province of federal law, the court ruled.

“ . . . the state does not have the authority to regulate highway safety to the extent that its laws require the railroad to effect such substantial changes,” the ruling said.

At issue was a case that began with police in Pulaski and McCreary counties issuing citations to Norfolk Southern under a state law that stated trains cannot block roadways for more than five minutes.

The Pulaski citations were issued for blocking Richardson Lane near a depot in Burnside.

Most of the citations said trains were stopped for between 15 to 20 minutes.

NS contended in court that five minutes is not long enough to perform all of the safety checks needed following a crew change.

An NS manager said that those checks can take 15 to 20 minutes if everything goes well.

Although NS entered pleas of guilty to 11 misdemeanor citations, the AAR filed a lawsuit on the railroad’s behalf in a federal court against Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield and Pulaski Sheriff Greg Speck in their official capacities, as well as the Sheriff and County Attorney for McCreary County.

After the court ruled against him, Hatfield issued a statement saying that although he was disappointed in the ruling, local authorities would obey it as they review their options for an appeal.

He said the state court cases should not be affected “until we have either exhausted our appeals, or made the decision not to appeal.”