From The Tribune staff reports
TRUSSVILLE — A bill to prohibit trains from blocking railroad crossing has passed out of committee on Wednesday, February 23.
Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee voted in favor of the bill, and it will be brought to the floor of the House to be voted on by the full House.
The bill was read for the first time and introduced to the House of Representatives on Thursday, January 13. The bill states that it “would provide that, except for trains stopped due to mechanical failure where separation or movement is not possible, and except for trains stopped as required by federal law, any train that has come to a complete stop and is blocking a railroad-highway grade crossing shall be cut, separated, or moved to clear the crossing upon the approach of any authorized emergency vehicle.”
If a train is found to be blocking a crossing, this “bill would deem the operator of a train that blocks a railroad-highway grade crossing for two or more continuous hours to be a public nuisance and would levy a civil penalty of $5,000 for each additional hour the train blocks the railroad-highway grade crossing. The civil penalty would be limited to $50,000 per day.”
Representative Danny Garrett said the railroad companies claim the problem is related to the supply chain and the labor force.
“What they were doing was loading up trains, which they had a problem with trying to get trains loaded, but they were loading trains and just sending them to the destination,” Garrett said in an earlier interview. “But the problem was, they didn’t have workers there to unload the trains, while they had bottlenecks, because of supply chain issues, all the train schedules were off. It was a logistical nightmare.”
The bill states that if the railroad crossing were blocked, law enforcement and emergency medical services would not be able to reach people in need. These roadways remaining open to first responders is considered “a primary and essential service to the health and well-being of the people of the State of Alabama,” because “the fast response by law enforcement officers and firefighters is often the difference between life and death or permanent disability to those persons in the State of Alabama making use of such services in an emergency.”
“My problem was, they didn’t have a plan to play around those logistics,” Garrett said in an earlier interview. “I understand about scheduling and bottlenecks, but when you know you got all those problems in front of you, you have to plan around it. What their solution was, ‘we’re just going to send all the trains we can when they’re ready.’ In the case of Trussville, you had a train that was blocking a crossing for ten days.”
The story will be updated when more information is available.