“No local ordinance exists that governs the length of time that trains may occupy road crossings. However, CSX makes every effort to minimize the time that we interrupt motor vehicle traffic,” says Gary Sease, spokesman for the national freight carrier.
In an informational fact sheet about the topic, the Federal Railroad Administration states it “does not regulate the length of time a train may block a grade crossing.”
“A federal law or regulation limiting the amount of time a grade crossing may be blocked could have the undesirable effect of causing a railroad to violate other federal safety rules such as when a train must be stopped to comply with regulations requiring that air brake tests may be performed,” the FRA fact sheet states.
FRA safety rules do address standing or idling trains that unnecessarily activate grade crossing warning devices such as flashing lights and gate arms. The federal rule specifically prohibits standing trains, locomotives, or other rail equipment from activating warning devices unless it is part of normal train movements or switching operations.
“As such, the rule makes clear that the reality of railroad operations sometimes require that trains stop in the approach circuits that activate warning devices even though the train is not occupying the crossing itself,” according to the fact sheet.
The FRA recommends that railroads “work cooperatively with state and local officials to eliminate or minimize the impact of blocked crossings wherever possible.”
The Uniform Vehicle Code, a comprehensive guide designed to help states develop standard motor vehicle and safety laws, suggests that trains not block crossings for more than five minutes. The FRA says that a majority of states place some restrictions on the amount of time a highway rail crossing can be blocked, “but in no case does it exceed more than 20 minutes.”
The FRA Web site is www.fra.dot.gov
According to state law, a motorist approaching a railroad grade crossing with a flashing signal, lowered crossing gate or evidence of a railroad train approaching within 1,500 feet must stop their vehicle within 50 feet, but not less than 15 feet, from the nearest rail of the railroad.
Date posted: January 21, 2010
User-contributed question by: