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Cities powerless over stopped trains after court ruling

A local mayor's 6-year push to increase fines for stopped trains is thwarted.

Posted: Sep. 26, 2018 12:06 AM

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. (WLFI) — A local mayor's 6-year push to increase fines for stopped trains is thwarted.

This is after the Indiana Supreme Court struck down the 150-year-old law that made fines possible in the first place.

It allowed local governments to fine railroads when a stopped train blocks a street for more than 10 minutes.

Mayor Todd Barton of Crawfordsville says that new decision is doing nothing to help the problem in his town.

"Ultimately the real losers in this whole thing are the citizens," said Barton.

Mark Cox, an Indiana State University student who works in Crawfordsville has had his fair share of waiting for trains.

"At first you get really really upset when you're not used to the trains, but then over time it becomes a normal sadly," said Cox.

This normal has caused the Crawfordsville Mayor to spend his entire time in office dealing with the issue.

"You know we've dealt with this for a long time," said Barton. "We've not been issuing citations here for some time because it seems pointless."

That's why Barton wanted to increase the penalty for trains that violate the ten-minute rule.

All that stopped when the Indiana Supreme Court overturned the rule altogether.

Railroad company Norfolk Southern challenged the law after receiving multiple fines from Allen County.

Now the mayor and people in Crawfordsville feel helpless.

"Blockages downtown on the state highway can last anywhere from you know an hour to they've lasted as long as six hours," said Barton.

The stopped trains are causing community members to be late for work.

"I've missed meetings and stuff like that," said Cox. "I know I've been docked pay before because I didn't make the hours."

"Minutes truly do count," said Barton. "I mean its more than just inconvenience. If somebody's not breathing or a house is on fire, minutes are absolutely critical."

There are possible solutions to the problem.

"Long term what we've done is we have submitted funding applications to build a bridge across those state highways and just eliminate the problem by separating the two," said Barton.

For Mayor Barton's solution to work he says they need to start a partnership with railroad company CSX.

Crawfordsville will hear back toward the end of fall if its funding will be approved.

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