Ohio court rules railroads cannot be penalized for blocked crossings

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled the state can’t punish railroads for blocking crossings because it usurps federal authority, which is a disappointment for Butler County communities held hostage for long periods of time.

A divided Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Marysville Municipal Court was correct in dismissing five charges against CSX Transportation for violating a state law that prohibits a stopped train from blocking railroad crossings. The high court ruled that because the state law “regulates, manages, and governs rail traffic,” conflicts with federal law covering the same subject and cannot be enforced.

The state law in question has been on the books for years. State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp. in Butler County, introduced legislation last year that would impose penalties up to $10,000 for railroads that fail to timely report incidents to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. It has remained in committee.

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He was responding to a situation in a St. Clair Twp. neighborhood where residents and emergency vehicles have been trapped for hours. He expressed dissatisfaction with the high court ruling.

“I am disappointed in hearing the decision that has come down from the Ohio Supreme Court in State v. CSX Transportation Inc. Emergency vehicles being unable to reach the locations of their calls is unacceptable,” Hall said in a statement. “This is an issue about safety for families in Butler County and beyond that needs to be addressed. While the court has spoken, we will continue to speak out and fight for our local constituents and the rights of Ohioans regardless until we arrive at an appropriate solution.”

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