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Indiana Supreme Court favors railroads in train fines ruling

The Indiana Supreme Court has struck down a more than 150-year-old state law that allowed local governments to fine railroads when a stopped train blocks a street for more than 10 minutes.

Posted: Sep 25, 2018 3:50 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court has struck down a more than 150-year-old state law that allowed local governments to fine railroads when a stopped train blocks a street for more than 10 minutes.

The justices unanimously agreed in Monday's ruling that the 1865 Blocked Crossing Statute was pre-empted by the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act. The act prohibits states from enacting a law or rule that manages or governs rail transportation.

Norfolk Southern Railway Co. challenged the statute after receiving 23 citations in Allen County from December 2014 to December 2015. The railroad's lawyers said the company faced a heavy compliance burden of having to run trains at higher speeds, operate shorter trains more frequently or temporarily pull trains apart at crossings to limit blocked crossings.

State Attorney General Curtis Hill had argued that regulating rail crossings for public welfare still falls under the state's police powers.

But the high court rejected the argument, stating that the statute "dictates key operational choices" for rail companies and contradicts the federal deregulation act.

Indiana communities are no longer permitted to ticket trains for repeatedly blocking street crossings. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said blocked crossings are one of the most frequent complaints he hears about from residents.

"People are frustrated," McDermott said. "It shows that the court, in my opinion, is very out of touch with the problems that real Hoosiers face."

The high court said communities dealing with blocked crossings should seek assistance from the federal Surface Transportation Board. The board's Rail Customer and Public Assistance Program addressed 32 issues related to blocked railroad crossings last year, according to its annual report.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 665285

Reported Deaths: 12697
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion910581653
Lake48637887
Allen36050641
Hamilton32231398
St. Joseph30243514
Elkhart25484420
Vanderburgh21315382
Tippecanoe20185205
Johnson16425361
Porter16053276
Hendricks15899301
Clark12032182
Madison11779321
Vigo11672231
Monroe10394164
Delaware9879179
LaPorte9821198
Howard9095199
Kosciusko8588111
Bartholomew7504147
Warrick7445153
Hancock7439134
Floyd7255172
Wayne6654192
Grant6453157
Boone611991
Morgan6118126
Dubois5933112
Dearborn550669
Cass5477100
Marshall5446105
Henry542695
Noble510978
Jackson465567
Shelby462591
Lawrence4193113
Gibson404985
Harrison402764
Clinton397053
Montgomery390584
DeKalb387178
Knox357885
Miami357863
Whitley350638
Huntington348377
Steuben339855
Wabash333076
Putnam331960
Ripley327862
Adams325149
Jasper318443
White298052
Jefferson295974
Daviess285696
Fayette272656
Decatur271388
Greene262280
Posey261432
Wells258975
Scott251450
LaGrange242170
Clay241444
Randolph225877
Spencer219330
Jennings216344
Washington213027
Sullivan203639
Fountain202542
Starke189251
Owen183453
Fulton179637
Jay178528
Carroll176919
Perry173836
Orange171351
Rush165422
Vermillion161542
Franklin159735
Tipton149241
Parke140116
Pike128433
Blackford120627
Pulaski107544
Newton96732
Brown95240
Benton92413
Crawford92113
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54111
Unassigned0434

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