Residents report Norfolk Southern trains blocking crossings across the country

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DUNCANNON, Pa. (WHTM) — Hours after an abc27 Investigation aired about Norfolk Southern trains blocking crossings onto Railroad Street in Duncannon, it happened again.

This time abc27 cameras were there and captured video of the stopped train and some frustrated residents crossing the tracks on foot to get home.

Norfolk Southern said it could not “confirm” any extended blockages in the area.

“We are keeping a close eye on it. We understand the concerns of the residents in the area and will continue working with local officials to address concerns,” Jeff DeGraff, Norfolk Southern spokesperson, said.

Residents say train traffic has increased over the past year and trains are getting longer. The abc27 Investigators found reports of Norfolk Southern trains blocking crossings all over the country.

In March, Nexstar station WANE, reported Norfolk Southern trains were blocking crossings in New Haven, Indiana for hours and children were walking across the tracks to get to school.

According to this article in the Archbold Buckeye, Norfolk Southern issued an apology to the Mayor of Archbold, Ohio after it was cited by police for blocking crossings for 7 hours for a crew change in February.

Norfolk Southern operates on over 19,000 miles of track crossing 22 states.

A spokesperson said, “Norfolk Southern makes every effort to minimize the time that trains interrupt motor vehicle traffic at railroad crossings. We are committed to working with customers and communities across our network to enhance the safety and efficiency of rail operations.”

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has a Rail Safety section which handles complaints and conducts safety inspections for compliance with regulations.

“Based on the concerns that have been raised, the PUC’s Rail Safety team has reached out to the railroad for additional information,” Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, Press Secretary, Office of Communications, PUC, said.

The abc27 Investigators shared viewers’ concerns with U.S. Senator Bob Casey’s office.

“Our staff got in touch with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today. FRA didn’t have information on this specific case to share,” Natalie C. Adams, Press Secretary to
U.S. Senator Bob Casey said.

There is no federal statute mandating how long trains may block crossings. In an effort to collect data and make improvements the FRA has created a portal where residents can report blocked crossings.

“If a single instance of a blocked highway-rail grade crossing is reported to FRA’s web portal on three separate calendar days within a 30-day period, FRA staff contact the railroad to learn more about why the crossing was blocked. We then work with the community and the railroad to attempt to identify possible solutions,” LaRaye Brown, Public Affairs Specialist, Federal Railroad Administration, said.

In Pennsylvania, police can enforce Title 75 Section 3713, of the Motor Vehicle code which states trains cannot block crossings for more than 5 minutes. Violators can face a $500 fine. There are exceptions, including stops for safety, disabled trains, and switching operations.

“It is up to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction to consider the totality of the circumstances and determine if enforcement action is necessary,” Corporal Brent Miller, spokesperson, Pennsylvania State Police, said.

Federal safety rules can sometimes contradict state and local laws to prevent blocks, courts usually find that federal law preempts the state and local laws.

To Report a blocked crossing:

Call Norfolk Southern 1-800-946-4744
Report a blocked crossing to the Federal Railroad Administration
Call Police

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