Posts Tagged ‘railroad 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. 

MDOT Award Grade Crossing Project Funds

December 15, 2022

The Michigan Department of Transportation has awarded $3 million to improve the surfaces of 44 highway-railroad grade crossings.

The funding is coming from the Local Grade Crossing Surface program, which helps pay for small and large projects that range from minor asphalt repairs to installing new track and surface materials.

The projects provides funding for 60 percent of a project with the railroad that owns the crossing paying the remaining 40 percent.

MDOT offers lump-sum cash incentives for projects to permanently close public grade crossings and caps funding incentives for track realignment projects to eliminate grade crossings.

Michigan has about 4,800 public grade crossings.

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

Indiana City, CSX Reach Agreement over Project

July 29, 2020

CSX reached an agreement with an Indiana city to avert a lawsuit over plans to rebuild a grade crossing in that city.

Officials in Crawfordsville, Indiana, had threatened to sue CSX in an effort to get it to delay the start of work on the crossing project until after another street construction project had been completed.

The city contended that closing the East Market Street crossing while work continued on the adjacent East Wabash Street would bring east-west traffic in town to a near halt.

CSX has agreed to delay the start of the project until the Wabash Avenue work is completed, which is expected to be mid August.

In addition to CSX, Crawfordsville has threatened to sue the Indiana Department of Transportation over the matter.

The grade crossing project has been set to begin this week.

PUCO Approves Upgrades for 5 Crossings

March 14, 2020

Five railroad grade crossings will get lights and gates as a result of action taken recently by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The projects must be completed by Dec. 11 and are funded in part by the State Grade Crossing Safety Fund.

Norfolk Southern will install LED lights at the County Road D and the Fulton Street crossings in Fulton County, and the Indiana and Ohio Railway will install lights and gates at the New York Avenue crossing in Lucas County.

IORY also will install lights and gates at the County Road M crossing in Fulton County and the East Hume Road/TR 144 crossing in Allen County.

FRA Launches Webpage to Report Blocked Crossings

December 21, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration created a webpage that can be used by the public and law enforcement to report blocked highway-rail grade crossings.

The page collects such information as date, time, location and duration.

In a news release the FRA said it will use the information collected will to gain a more complete picture of where, when and for how long such obstructions occur at the nation’s approximately 130,000 public grade crossings.

The agency said it will share that information with railroads and government officials and use it to help create local solutions to blocked crossing issues.

Filling out the form online should take an average of three minutes the FRA said.

The page can be found at

Trains Tying Up Toledo Crossings for Long Periods

November 5, 2019

Some Toledo motorists are growing impatient over what they term long delays due to grade crossings being blocked by longer trains.

The Blade newspaper of Toledo noted that blocked crossings are not new in East Toledo, but with Norfolk Southern having adopted the precision scheduled railroading operating model the time that crossings are blocked has lengthened as the trains have become longer.

“It wasn’t really that bad until they started doing something different,” resident Tom Salona told the Blade.

Another resident, Chris McCrory, said delays have stretched to a half hour and even an hour.

Nick Fuzinski said the problems started getting bad last spring. “It used to be just five minutes. Then they’d be on their way,” he said.

Toledo City Councilman Peter Ujvagi, whose district includes East Toledo, said he has received numerous complaints about long blocked grade crossings.

“People have complained, because for a very long time that one single [track] line was not used much at all,” he said. “But now we have these extended blockages, and you can’t get around them.”

He was referring to the fact that CSX also has a rail line a few blocks from the NS track in question.

The Blade said the NS trains in question are headed in and out of Evans Yards, formerly known as Homestead Yard, in Oregon.

In the past, NS ran shorter trains and departing trains could conduct an air test without blocking any streets.

In particular, the Blade reported, the train that is blocking crossing the most originates in Bellevue and has a few blocks of cars for Evans Yard and the Air Line Yard in Central Toledo.

That train also interchanges traffic to the Ann Arbor Railroad in North Toledo.

The Blade said that this train typically arrives at Evans Yard in the middle of the morning to drop off cars and then picks up cars bound for Air Line Yard.

Most of the cars NS interchanges to the Ann Arbor Railroad are auto racks and that results in consists that are more than a mile long.

That is long enough to block most, if not all, crossings between Burger and York streets as the crew does switching and performs an air break test before departing for Air Line Yard.

To reach Air Line, the train must get onto the NS Chicago Line near East Broadway and Oakdale Avenue.

If it has to wait for traffic before getting onto the Chicago Line that means more time blocking crossings.

What has changed is that the auto racks are no longer handled in separate trains as they were in the past.

Likewise, NS used to run a train from Bellevue with just cars bound for Evans Yard.

A yard crew at Evans would then build another train with cars bound for Air Line Yard.

But now all of those movements have been consolidated into a single train.

Yet another complication can occur if an NS train is blocking a diamond with CSX at Ironville Junction.

That has a ripple effect with CSX trains blocking crossings in North and East Toledo as it waits it turn to proceed across the diamonds.

Ujvagi said he might write a letter to Norfolk Southern and perhaps one to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur to see what help she might be able to offer.

PUCO Backs FRA Grade Crossing Data Collection Effort

August 15, 2019

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has expressed support of an effort by the Federal Railroad Administration to collection information about blocked railroad crossings.

The FRA is seeking U.S. Office of Management and Budget approval to collect information from the public on its website and mobile applications regarding the frequency, location and impact of grade crossings blocked by slow-moving or idling trains.

There would be a dedicated portal for police to submit information about blocked railroad crossings.

PUCO said the data that is collected could be used to analyze blocked crossings and propose solutions for problem crossings.

The agency recommended that the FRA find ways to expand the scope of the collection activities and explore providing real-time or anticipated blocked crossing data to local and state emergency medical services, fire and law enforcement officials.

PUCO Approves CSX Crossing Project in Tiffin

June 27, 2019

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved approved a plan by CSX to consolidate rail crossings in Tiffin that will result upgraded warning devices at five crossings while two other crossings will be closed.

Crossings at Perry, Market, Nelson, Clinton and Wall streets will receive four quadrant light-and-gate systems. Closed will be crossings at Monroe and Holmes streets.

The work must be completed by June 19, 2020. Funding is being provided by the federal government, the state and CSX.

The state’s share of funding comes from the State Grade Crossing Safety Fund and may not exceed $5,000 per project.

PUCO Sets Public Hearings on Crossing Exemptions

October 10, 2018

Two public hearings will be held this month by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on a proposal to exempt nine public grade crossings in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

If approved, it would mean that school buses and motor vehicles transporting certain hazardous materials would not be required to stop at the crossings at Diehl Road, Bailey Road, Ellsworth Road, State Route 14, State Route 534 and U.S. Route 224 in Mahoning County; and State Route 82, State Route 534 and County Highway 114D/Braceville Robinson Road in Trumbull County.

A hearing has been set for 1 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the Braceville Township Administration Building in Newton Falls for the Mahoning County crossings.

The Trumbull County crossings will be discussed at an Oct. 19 hearing at 2:30 p.m. at the West Branch High School library in Beloit.

Local highway officials have sought the exemption from an Ohio law that mandates that  bus, school or motor vehicle transporting certain hazardous materials stop, look and listen for oncoming trains at every public rail crossing before crossing the tracks.