COLUMBUS — Proposed legislation in Ohio would increase penalties for railroads that block grade crossings.
The bipartisan House Bill 361 would require railroad companies that block crossings to submit an incident report to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). The agency will then compile an annual incident report to be shared with the Ohio General Assembly.
“I have with me today logs and information that were provided to me by people from my district of blocked crossings,” state Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., said in a statement.
“One instance just took place two weeks ago, with a family being blocked for over 60 hours due to a train waiting for a new crew,” Hall added. “These are people trying to do the simple things, like take their kids to school or sports, get home from work or run to the store – all not being able to because of the blocked crossings they encounter.”
During his testimony, Hall said he had heard from constituents about the concerns of this ongoing issue. Hall sought to meet with local officials and the county engineer before resorting to introducing a bill.
“As someone who has a railroad in their backyard, I am not here today to object to the railroads purpose, but I am here today as a voice for the many residents in my district alone who face this issue on almost a daily basis,” Hall added. “I am here today to stand with the people from all across Ohio who face this problem and if I say it once I will say it again, I am here today to find solutions to this matter as I am remised to have to go down this legislative route to get the railroads attention.”
The increased penalties include a $5,000 fine for the first violation within 30 days (the current law is $1,000 per incident) and a $10,000 fine for any subsequent violation within 30 days.
A Tuesday hearing on HB 361 was the first for the measure. It awaits further consideration in the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.