A new law that allows local law enforcement to write tickets to trains that block intersections for too long went into effect July 1. And now, police have started writing tickets.
In Edmond, the sound of an intersection blocked by a train can ring throughout downtown for hours even days.
“Of the 11 crossings, when a train stops in downtown, on average, it will block around five of those,” explained Casey Moore, the Director of Public Relations for the City of Edmond.
That causes problems for drivers, walkers, and emergency vehicles. But under the new state law, a train stopped on the track for more than 10 minutes can be ticketed and the railroad fined $1,000.
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“We had an officer who went out and saw this and wrote the citations,” said Moore.
The same Edmond officer wrote tickets on July 17 and July 28.
The Corporation Commission said they were the first case filed. The City of Davis also submitted a case for a train that was stopped for 44 minutes and blocked three crossings. Both cases will be heard by an Administrative Law judge with the Corporation Commission.
“We are the court venue,” said Matt Skinner with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. “We can hear the case and then any exceptions to the judges’ findings will be brought before the commissioners.”
At airtime, repeated calls to BNSF were not returned.
However, in the past, railroads have argued this issue is under federal jurisdiction and a state cannot enforce laws like the one that just took effect in Oklahoma.
That will likely be sorted out in court on August 28.
“I think a lot of people are looking toward cities and us just to see how all this is going to work,” said Moore. “We weren’t looking to be the first but that’s just how it worked out.”