INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court will consider the validity of a state law allowing local governments to fine railroads when a stopped train blocks a street for more than 10 minutes.

Norfolk Southern Railway Co. is seeking the dismissal of 23 citations it received in Allen County, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported . The company cited two federal laws it said pre-empts the enforcement of Indiana’s Blocked Crossing Statute.

The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act and the Federal Railroad Safety Act prohibit states from attempting to interfere with the safe operation of trains, the railway argued. The railway said it would have to run trains at higher speeds, operate shorter trains more frequently or temporarily pull trains apart at crossings to limit blocked crossings.

Federal laws about the issue are broad, but they don’t “explicitly subsume” the state’s ability to regulate roadway blockages, said Curtis Hill, the state’s attorney general.

“Thus, at its core, this case is about the ability of a railroad to act with impunity in inhibiting the movement of people and traffic through a municipality and an unwillingness to pay the associated fines resulting from those infractions,” Hill said.

The state Court of Appeals unanimously ruled last year that the statute isn’t pre-empted by federal law.

(6) comments


If this really is an issue of state vs. federal laws why is this case not in federal court rather than state court? How can a our state supreme court make a valid ruling on federal law?


Poor judgement on the part of the railroad master. Too often they'll park a train and let the crew's hours run out before so they have to wait to send out a relief crew. Even then, and I've seen it on many occasions, the releif crew has to sit and wait for the go ahead to bring the train into the yard.

Over the last few decades, Elkhart has done it's part to try to eliminate it. As far back as 40 years ago, railroad crossing along US33 were closed off to allow the trains parking space. Likewise, the city has also closed a number of crossings as well as added an underpass and an overpass to address the problem. Right now


This is one more reason to have more railroad over or under passes. Force the railroads to pay for them. They have deep pockets.


Many years ago Even Bayh signed a law into effect allowing the length of trains to be lengthened from 1 mile to 2 miles. If you live in Indianapolis your response is "So what." but if you live in Goshen, Elkhart, or South Bend and you have upwards of 120 trains per day going through your community it becomes a very big deal. I'm all for fining these folks. Trains sitting for 45-60 minutes while blocking two or three crossings is a very big deal and it needs to stop.


I've noticed the trains are parking and blocking crossings more frequently again. I like the IRS more than the railroad companies!

Average Joe

As I say to my wife, train traffic is a sign of economic vitality. We came out of a recession where fewer trains were needed, now with our economy growing the need for more rail cars increases. So yes, they are becoming more frequent.
Treat them like we do the St. Joseph river, place strategic overpasses and plan your route to use them. Otherwise, take your chances and take the risk of waiting.

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