Bill Proposed To Fine Trains That Block Traffic In Oklahoma

Tuesday, February 12th 2019, 5:38 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

Stiff fines up to $10,000 could be down the line for trains who block intersections and traffic for more than 10 minutes. 

Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall is proposing the law that would allow cities, county sheriffs and the OHP to ticket and fine railroad companies that block intersections. 

The bill goes before the House Transportation Committee Wednesday. 

Around noon Tuesday, a train pulled to a stop in downtown Edmond blocking several intersections.  

“This is constant,” said one driver who works downtown.

“They have one train that will sit on the track 30 minutes or longer sometimes,” said a city bus driver.

News 9 timed the train to see how long it was stopped. The experiment was very similar to the one the City of Edmond conducted this summer, when they turned a security camera toward the tracks and calculated how long the trains blocked traffic.

“Over a six-week period, the total stoppage time was 53 hours of total stoppage where several crossings were blocked,” explained Casey Moore with the City of Edmond.

The problem isn't just in Edmond.

Speaker McCall says it's an issue in his home district of Atoka and across the state, not only annoying drivers but blocking emergency services and stopping customers from getting to businesses.

"I have attempted to fix this too many times over the past six years without the force of legislation, but we have reached a point where the law needs teeth," says Speaker McCall.

There would be some exemptions to the law, including if a train is stopped to allow passage of a second train on the same line of track or if the train is stopped because of an accident, mechanical failure or storm.

In Edmond, the train finally pulled away after being stopped on the tracks for 43 minutes.

The Oklahoma Railroad Association says they have met with Speaker McCall in the past regarding this issue.  

Here is a statement from Lori A. Kromer Peterson, Executive Director:

Generally, railroad operations require trains to hold in sidings as one or more trains pass a train in the siding. Many sidings are, and have historically been, located in towns and cities throughout Oklahoma where they serve local freight needs. Oklahoma Railroad Association member railroads have been working with communities and local public safety officials to address problems which, although rare, have understandably caused concern. As the economy has returned to levels not seen since 2006, freight volumes on the roads and rails have increased.

Meanwhile, new and expanded population centers cause more traffic across railroads.

Oklahoma Railroad Association members are committed to working with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to identify locations where train traffic and vehicular traffic are likely to intersect, and to discuss infrastructure solutions that will reduce conflict between increasing levels of rail freight and vehicular traffic.