If you were stopped at a railroad crossing for 10, 15, 20 minutes or more last year, you will be glad to know that local officials are looking at ways to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

One option, which has been used in other communities, is to fine the railroad companies, and local officials want to consider it.

Indiana law allows cities to issue a ticket to railroad companies if one of their trains stops and blocks traffic at a crossing for more than 10 minutes. Each ticket comes with a fine of $200 or more.

Local communities haven’t used that option before, but officials are considering it now, especially as more and longer trains begin traveling on the Louisville and Indiana Railroad line on the east side of the county.

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Last year, residents reported waiting long stretches for slow-moving trains when work was being done to the tracks as part of an upgrade that will allow more and faster trains to run on the line. Kids were late for school and their parents were late for work, and the hassle was the talk of local communities.

Now, as that work gets close to completion, local officials are worried about what will happen when more trains begin traveling along the railroad line from Kentucky to Indianapolis. Under the federally approved plan, up to 15 more trains can run along the line every day once upgrades are done.

In Greenwood, a big concern is what will happen if trains are backing up when getting into Indianapolis. That could result in trains stopping in Greenwood and blocking crossings, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.

The city hasn’t ticketed trains before but will in the future, Myers said.

“If they block an intersection we will cite them for it, and hopefully as we start citing them for it they will think about the timing of trains and stop them in an area that won’t block an intersection,” he said.

Greenwood wouldn’t be the first Indiana city to use tickets as a way of trying to force railroad companies to keep crossings clear. Communities in DeKalb, Knox and Porter counties have issued tickets after trains blocked crossings, with DeKalb County issuing several dozen tickets in recent years, according to court records.

In Franklin, a train will stop anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes on Earlywood Drive every afternoon, Mayor Steve Barnett said.

The possibility of fining railroad companies for the blocked crossings was not one Franklin had explored before, but Barnett said city officials would look into it.

About the law

Here is a look at what the law says about trains blocking crossings:

It shall be unlawful for a railroad to permit any train, railroad car or engine to obstruct travel at a crossing for a period longer than 10 minutes, except where the train, railroad car or engine cannot be moved because of circumstances over which the railroad has no control.

It shall be unlawful for a railroad to permit train movements that obstruct traffic at a crossing until all vehicular traffic previously delayed has been cleared or a period of five minutes has elapsed between train movements.

A railroad corporation that violates this chapter commits a Class C infraction, with a minimum fine of $200.

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.