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Frankfort cracks down on trains blocking railroad crossings

Frankfort leaders are cracking down on trains blocking railroad crossings for long periods of time.

Posted: May 25, 2018 6:42 PM
Updated: May 25, 2018 6:53 PM

FRANKFORT, Ind. (WLFI) - Frankfort leaders are cracking down on trains blocking railroad crossings for long periods of time. The city's mayor said it's become more frequent and it's causing safety and traffic hazards for drivers.

In some instances, the trains have been parked on the crossing for up to three hours. Neighbors said enough is enough.

"I've lived here my whole life and I know people say the trains divide our town," said Chris Coomer.

However, the trains aren't just dividing the city of Frankfort. Coomer said trains are now starting to divide his business.

"We may have materials coming in, semi loads of material, and we'll have drivers call in and say, 'Hey I've been sitting here waiting for this train for an hour,'" said Coomer.

Coomer's family business, Coomer and Sons Sawmill, sits right next to two railroad tracks. Lately, there has been several instances of trains blocking the railroad crossings for long periods of time.

"We've had instances in the last six months where it's been two to three hours," said Coomer.

Mayor Chris McBarnes said this has been the case for all of the city's rail crossings. McBarnes said the trains have been keeping ambulances from passing and making people late to work.

"Bottom line is we're saying enough is enough and we want to get the attention of the rail companies," said McBarnes.

According to Indiana law, a train cannot be stopped at a crossing for more than 10 minutes.

"The thing that worries me the most with this situation is when crossings are blocked for these amounts of time, people's lives are in danger," said McBarnes.

The city is now fighting back by fining and citing trains that block rail crossings for more than 10 minutes. The city is currently in the process of fining one train companies for blocking County Road 200 for more than an hour. McBarnes is now calling on neighbors to report any blocked trains to Clinton County dispatch.

"We will immediately dispatch an officer to that site. If they can visually see that that crossing is blocked for more than ten minutes, then that particular rail company will get a citation," said McBarnes.

McBarnes said Norfolk Southern trains are one of the biggest offenders.

A Norfolk Southern spokesperson said their goal is to keep trains moving. However, the reason a train would be stopped for a lengthy amount of time is because of a mechanical or safety issue. The spokesperson said he couldn't speak directly to the stopped trains in Frankfort.

McBarnes said he hopes Frankfort's voice is heard, but he also knows that fining and citing could possibly not have an impact.

"State statute is very loose, there's not a lot of teeth behind it," said McBarnes. "The fines that get paid go back into an industrial rail service fund by which these rail companies can pull basically the fines that they paid to upgrade their own infrastructure."

Coomer said he desperately wants the city to find a solution. However, he doesn't know if citing is the way to go about it.

"I don't think the fines are the answer. I think it's some type of cooperation with the railroad company to make things better and make things work for the community," said Coomer.

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