April 24, 2018

Indiana Supreme Court To See Case About Railroad Fines

Norfolk Southern Railway Co.is seeking the dismissal of 23 citations it received in Allen County. - Emmett Tullos/CC-BY-2.0

Norfolk Southern Railway Co.is seeking the dismissal of 23 citations it received in Allen County.

Emmett Tullos/CC-BY-2.0

The Indiana Supreme Court will consider the validity of a state law allowing local governments to fine railroads when a stopped train blocks a street for more than 10 minutes.

Norfolk Southern Railway Co.is seeking the dismissal of 23 citations it received in Allen County, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported . The company cited two federal laws it said pre-empts the enforcement of Indiana's Blocked Crossing Statute.

The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act and the Federal Railroad Safety Act prohibit states from attempting to interfere with the safe operation of trains, the railway argued. The railway said it would have to run trains at higher speeds, operate shorter trains more frequently or temporarily pull trains apart at crossings to limit blocked crossings.

Federal laws about the issue are broad, but they don't "explicitly subsume" the state's ability to regulate roadway blockages, said Curtis Hill, the state's attorney general.

"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," Hill said.

The state Court of Appeals unanimously ruled last year that the statute isn't pre-empted 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," the appeals court said.

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