Alabama lawmakers working to stop trains from blocking railroad crossings
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama lawmakers are working to prevent trains from stopping on tracks and holding up traffic.
On Tuesday, March 1st, the House passed the bill, HB 122, to help alleviate trains in the Birmingham metro area from blocking intersections, after numerous traffic problems.
“It makes me so happy that somebody is finally paying attention,” Gardendale Resident Shirley Carr said.
Carr has spent hours in her car sitting behind stopped trains in her neighborhood. She said there is only one way in and one way out.
“It would take hours for them to get another crew out there,” Carr said. “In the meantime, we are stuck on whatever side of the tracks we are on. I would leave for work an hour and a half early and sit there and read a book.”
Carr said it has been a while since she’s been stopped at a crossing, but she fears it will happen again.
“Historically, they will do well for a while and then they will go right back to doing what they were doing in the first place,” Carr said.
She said she supports the new bill recently passed by the Alabama House. The bill says that besides for mechanical failure or a federal law requiring the stop, local law enforcement can order a train to be cut, moved, or separated if it’s been on the tracks for at least two hours or an emergency vehicle approaches.
“I think that is an awesome first step,” Carr said. “I think we need to get into their pockets really deep and not just stop with that, go all the way up the line and fine them a large amount of money.”
Trussville Mayor Buddy Choat said they see stopped trains multiple times a week in their downtown area.
“School buses and afternoon traffic, it just causes major problems for us,” Mayor Choat said. “It seems like rush hour and afternoons, it happens more than anything. A lot of times, we don’t know why it is stopped.”
He said if passed, the new bill could help. The bill will also fine the operator a penalty of $5,000 for every extra hour the train blocks the crossing, up to $50,000 a day.
“It is a great starting point if we can all work together on this,” Choat said. “But, I think there are going to be some more things that need to be done. We have never had anything like this before, so hopefully this helps us.”
The bill still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor before it would go into effect.
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