Pennsylvania bill addresses blocked train crossings

May 19, 2022

Keith Goble

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If one Pennsylvania state lawmaker gets his way, statute would be revised to address blocked train crossings.

The state now prohibits roadway blockages for longer than five minutes. Fines are set at $25. Exceptions include stoppages for safety considerations or when a train is disabled.

For the fourth time in as many sessions, Rep. Frank Farry, R-Langhorne, introduced a bill last week to boost penalties for trains that block roadways “for an unreasonable amount of time.”

Farry said the summary offense has not prevented numerous blockages of a major state road in districts throughout the state. He adds that blocked crossing can also result in preventing fire and emergency personnel from responding to health or safety issues.

“Even though these roads have been blocked for up to two hours at a time, tickets written by our local police have done little to deter this ongoing, dangerous conduct,” Farry wrote in a legislative memo.

His bill, HB2595, would authorize fines ranging from $200 to $1,000 for repeat offenders. The possibility of six months in jail is included.

“These are the same higher penalties currently assessed against repeat offenders of other vehicular offenses, such as racing on highways and driving without lights to avoid identification or arrest,” Farry wrote.

The rule would apply to companies and government agencies that stop their trains on roadways.

“It is our hope that these more serious penalties will finally get the attention of train operators to prevent unsafe conditions and possible tragedy.”

Critics question whether legislation would do any good to resolve delays. They point out that law enforcement would have to investigate why a particular train is stopped, which could add to the length of the delay.

In addition, they note that city and state train laws can be overridden by federal regulations on trains.

HB2595 is in the House Transportation Committee.

Around the nation

Data from the Federal Railroad Administration shows that blocked rail crossings is an issue nationwide.

The most recent data shows 25,374 reports received nationwide over a 21 month period. During that time, 18,801 incidents were reported at 5,773 crossings. There were 906 investigations reported.

In order, the top five states reporting incidents were Ohio, Illinois, Texas, Indiana, and Colorado.

There are 34 states with rules on blocked crossings. Most states have blockage limits of 20 minutes. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Pennsylvania.

 

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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.