Oklahoma takes action to deter trains blocking traffic

July 15, 2019

Keith Goble

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A new rule now in effect in Oklahoma is intended to reduce occurrences of trains blocking traffic.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, the Sooner State is the 38th state to implement a rule on blocked crossings. Most states have blockage limits of 20 minutes.

Signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, the new law prohibits trains and crews from blocking a rail crossing on a highway or street for more than 10 minutes.

HB2472 authorizes law enforcement agencies to issue fines up to $1,000.

Exceptions would be made for “emergency conditions,” which include a wreck, derailment, storm and flood. Another exception permits an additional 10 minutes for trains that are unable to complete a switching maneuver while setting out or picking up rail cars, or for stopping to allow another train to pass.

Supporters say the new rule is necessary to help reduce traffic backups caused by trains blocking roadways for excessive periods of time. They note that blocked crossings can also result in preventing fire and emergency personnel from responding to health or safety issues.

Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania House bill would revise statute on trains blocking roadways.

The state now prohibits roadway blockages for longer than five minutes. Fines are set at $25. Certain exceptions apply.

Sponsored by Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-Delaware, the bill would increase the penalty to $500.

Barrar says more needs to be done to improve compliance with the law.

“Including a much steeper penalty in law for a violation will incentivize operators of railroad trains to be more proactive in ensuring that crossings in roadways are not blocked and jeopardizing the ability of emergency responders to provide emergency services when time is of the essence,” Barrar wrote in a memo to House lawmakers.

The bill, HB1340, is in the House Transportation Committee.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.