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Supreme court decides rail companies won't be fined for blocking crossings

An Indiana Supreme Court ruling could impact your travel across the Hoosier State.

Posted: Sep 25, 2018 6:51 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - 10 minutes used to be the magic amount of time a train could block a crossing in Indiana. After that, a rail company could be fined a minimum of $200 dollars. But a recent decision from the Indiana Supreme Court has changed that.

The Supreme Court decided Monday that two federal laws outweighed that state statute. So without a way to take action against rail companies for blocked crossings, many in the community are worried. This includes resident Brandi Bennett.

She shares, "We've been stopped for probably over an hour at trains before just waiting for it to go ahead and go over the tracks. It's caused me being late to work, doctor's appointments, everything."

Bennett is one of many people who get stuck at lengthy trains across the Wabash Valley. She doesn't think it’s fair that rail companies can't be charged for blocking crossings anymore,

Bennett says, "Honestly it kind of does like anger me a little bit because then I kind of feel like they have no incentive to move, and to get off the tracks a little bit faster, so they can just kind of like sit there and have no problem."

A blocked railroad crossing can be a pain for anyone trying to get from point A to point B. But, have you thought about this? First responders also have to worry about that. That includes firefighters, police officers, and of course ambulance drivers.

Trans-Care Operations Director Jason Orman says, "We may have to divert a unit from another area to try to get them to the scene faster than the unit that's blocked, trying to re-route."

In these cases, Orman says they rely heavily on mutual aid.

Orman shares, "We also respond a lot with the fire departments and so sometimes they're on the right side of the tracks. So the patient is getting taken care of while we figure out how to get to the patient."

But safety concerns have already trickled down to residents. That in a time of emergency, they worry if help can even reach them.

Terre Haute resident Theresa Johnson says, "If there's a train stopped, I know that if I can't get to where I need to go, the firetrucks or ambulance can't always get to their calls."

Orman does add that there is great communication between dispatch and first responders to prevent any major response delays. He says that projects like the Margaret Overpass are also a benefit to increasing response times.

To view the entire Indiana Supreme Court Decision, click here.

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