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Lawsuit challenges new Oklahoma law prohibiting trains from blocking railroad crossings

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Posted at 6:03 PM, Aug 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 19:05:07-04

Getting stuck at a railroad crossing can be aggravating when a train is speeding across the intersection.
When the train blocking the intersection is not moving, it can be even more so.
A new state law aiming to fix that problem could face a legal roadblock.

Caleb Pease’s business sits on a road between two sets of railroad crossings in Claremore.
Several times a day, he watches traffic back up when trains from various railroad companies either roll through the railroad crossings on that street, or stop on the tracks blocking traffic from getting through the crossing.

He said, "We get a lot of irritable drivers trying to get past the track after the arms finally go up."

Pease said he has seen more than just irritated drivers when trains block the road. “And when they stop on the tracks that's where we're seeing hit and run accidents, actual wrecks, and people backed up on Industrial or Blue Star for miles."

A new state law, the Oklahoma Blocked Crossing Statute, prohibits trains from blocking street intersections for more than ten minutes under most circumstances.
The law also allows for a fine of up to $1,000.

Claremore police told 2 Works for You it has had 16 complaints involving trains blocking intersections since the law took effect July 1, 2019.

Deputy Chief Steve Cox said Claremore is taking a wait and see stance on issuing tickets.
He said, "We don't even know there's going to be an outcome where they could be fined."

Cox said that is because the law has municipalities writing the tickets, but the state Corporation Commission determining if the railroad should be fined.

Davis and Edmond have already ticketed trains.

Fort Worth-based BNSF Railroad filed a federal lawsuit in response to the Edmond ticket.

The lawsuit claims U.S. law governing rail carriers supersedes state law.
We reached out to BNSF. In a statement, the company told 2 Works for You,

“Oklahoma railroad operators are committed to working with communities to solve blocked crossing issues on a case-by-case basis by reviewing operating procedures, train speed, customer needs and other factors associated with safe and efficient rail service. the safety of our employees and the public is paramount as we fulfill our mission to support the economy of Oklahoma and the nation. it is unfortunate that Oklahoma lawmakers have chosen to enact a policy that does not promote collaborative solutions.”

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