Inconvenience of stopped trains could continue

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) We’ve all been stopped at a train track.

“I’ve got places to be and a stopped train is really a hassle,” Lukas Fender said. Fender was stopped before a train on Lindenwood Avenue in Fort Wayne. He eventually turned around. The train was stopped for more than half an hour.

“When a train’s stopped like this one, it kind of sucks.”

If it’s stopped for more than 10 minutes, local governments can fine the train company. Norfolk Southern has 23 fines in Allen County. But it’s fighting those, saying two federal laws protect it. Its case is on the way to Indiana’s highest court.

According to INDOT, nationally every year, more than 500 people who trespass on railroad right-of-way are killed and many others are critically injured.

NewsChannel 15 reached out to Norfolk Southern for comment but a spokesman for the company said they won’t talk during ongoing litigation. 

Last year, the state court of appeals unanimously ruled that statute isn’t preempted by federal law. “Without state action, railroads would be allowed to block major thoroughfares for an infinite amount of time because the federal regulation is silent.”

Attorney General Curtis Hill said the federal laws are broad, but they don’t explicitly include the state’s ability to regulate roadway blockages. “Thus, at its core, this case is about the ability of a railroad to act with impunity in inhibiting the movement of people and traffic through a municipality and an unwillingness to pay the associated fines resulting from those infractions”

Meaning they would be able to continue blocking intersections without fear of getting fined. So now it’s up to the supreme court. Meanwhile, the waiting continues. “I wish that they wouldn’t just stop like this. It’s a hassle for everybody.”

The Indiana Supreme Court has not set a date for oral arguments yet.

Click the document below to read the court filing.

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