Posts Tagged ‘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. 

Another Person Implicated in R&N Tampering

September 12, 2022

Pennsylvania authorities say a man who sought to tamper with grade crossing signal equipment on the Reading & Northern had hoped to slow vehicular traffic which in turn could lead to a slow night at the fast food restaurant where he worked.

Police said a second employee of the Wendy’s restaurant was also apparently involved in the scheme, which occurred last month.

Ryan Boria, 34, of Tilden Township was arrested earlier and charged in connection with a plan to use a shunt to disrupt crossing gate-signals.

He was arrested after coworkers identified him by his work uniform. Boria was shown on video walking along the R&N tracks.

News reports identified the second Wendy’s worker allegedly involved in the scheme as Amy Schaner.

Police said Schaner dropped Boria off when he placed the shunt on the tracks and then picked him up and drove him to work.

Police said the two workers told them in interviews that they hoped this would prevent would-be customers from reaching their restaurant that night, thus resulting in a slow night.

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.

Westbound in Olmsted Falls

July 7, 2022

At times I have dabbled with night photography but haven’t done it enough to feel like I’ve mastered it..

One of those occasions was on May 1, 2007, in Olmsted Falls on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern. I knew a westbound was coming so I set my camera on a tripod and pointed it at the crossing gates for Brookside Drive.

Soon the gates came down and the westbound went barreling through the crossing. This image was scanned from a slide.

Photograph by Craig Sanders

PUCO Orders LED Lights at NS Grade Crossings

July 7, 2022

Norfolk Southern has been directed by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to install LED lights on signals at 100 grade crossings.

PUCO will pay $750,000 to install the lights with NS responsible for costs exceeding $7,500 per crossing.

The grade crossings are located in Cuyahoga, Erie, Fulton, Lorain, Lucas, Ottawa, Williams and Wood counties. The work is expected to be completed by June 2023.

Funding for PUCO’s share of the costs is coming from a state LED upgrade program established in 2012.

The existing 8-inch incandescent lights at the crossing signals will be replaced by 12-inch LED lights at crossings equipped with flashing light signal systems. 

Grade Crossing Elimination Program Launched

July 1, 2022

Federal transportation officials are making more than $573 million in grant funds available as part of a new Railroad Crossing Elimination Program.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a notice of funding opportunity for funding that is available in federal fiscal year 2022.

The program was created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved last fall.

That law provides $3 billion over five years to the grade crossing program to fund grade separation projects, such as overpasses and underpasses; closures; track relocations; and improvements to or installations of warning devices at crossings, if they are related to a separation or relocation project.

USDOT said grant applications will be reviewed by the Federal Railroad Administration “based on their potential to improve safety by eliminating crossings or improving existing highway-rail grade crossings; to increase access to emergency services; to reduce emissions; to provide economic benefit; and to hire locally, among other possible community enhancements,”

Michigan Gov. Signs Grade Crossing Bill

April 28, 2022

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill that supporters say ensures continued funding of a program to maintain adequate and functional signage and warning devices at railroad-highway grade crossings.

The legislation divides the costs of grade crossing sign upkeep and maintenance between railroad and road authorities, preventing any additional costs from being passed on to motorists, state officials said in a news release.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will conduct a study to determine traffic control device maintenance costs.

The agency also will update the fees road authorities pay railroads annually for the maintenance of active warning devices at crossings.

Goshen Officials Irate Over Blocked Crossings

March 19, 2022

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.”

PUCO Approves 3 Grade Crossing Projects

August 1, 2020

Three grade crossing projects were approved this week by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Norfolk Southern was directed to to install lights and gates at the Monroe Street/County Road 39 crossing in Huron County.

The Indiana & Ohio Railway was directed to install flashing lights and cantilever at the State Street crossing, and flashing lights and gates at the Deerfield Road crossing in Hamilton county.

The NS and IORY projects must be completed by July 29, 2021.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie was directed to install flashing lights and gates at the Baymere Avenue/Township Road 322 crossing in Stark County by April 29, 2021.

Federal funding will be provided for these projects.

FRA Grade Crossing Study Used Drones

January 22, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a report on its Office of Research, Development and Technology’s study of the use of drones to produce accurate 3-D models of high-profile grade crossings.

In a news release, the FRA said the study, which was conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, found that photogrammetry with ground control points can produce models with similar accuracy to those produce using LiDAR at a much lower cost, FRA officials said in the report.

The study determined the process needed to achieve a simple measurement of ground clearance for these crossings. Volpe also made recommendations to FRA for pursuing the capability, as well as to work with the Federal Highway Administration to provide better information to drivers of low-clearance vehicles.

The study results can be found at