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Thank you to U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan for stopping by Galion today! It was part of his tour of the 4th Congressional District that he represents, and he spoke to several Galion city officials about stopped trains blocking street crossings. Galion residents have recently seen a noticeable increase in both the frequency of stopped trains, and the duration in which a crossing is blocked.
There was a total of 18 instances of a stopped train from when the city began tracking data on Oct. 1, through Dec. 5. At least one of Galion’s nine street crossings were blocked and the blockages averaged at least 30 minutes. Some lasted more than one hour. The data also showed that the crossing on Portland Way South, Galion’s primary thoroughfare for commercial traffic, was blocked 10 times during that period. On Nov. 11, the Portland Way crossing was blocked three times that afternoon. This data was shared with Jordan and his staff.
City officials stressed the hindrance to emergency vehicles. If Portland Way is blocked and the adjacent north-south street crossings are blocked as well, safety vehicles do not have access to the southern section of the city. Additionally, the Galion Fire and EMS Department services Polk Township, which borders a large area south of the city limits. Response times increase when getting to those areas, as well as getting from south of the crossings to Galion Community Hospital. EMS providers in Morrow County also need to do transports to GCH.
The economic impact was also discussed. A blockage on Portland Way or Harding Way slows down commercial traffic, and there is not a detour route for large vehicles. Due to the Harding Way crossing’s proximity to the Uptowne Business District, traffic can queue up quickly and prevent access to businesses and parking.
In the past, the Police Department had a contact number for CSX that could be used to determine the cause and approximate duration of the blockage. The company’s policy has changed and the city must now submit notifications through a website portal the same as any other customer: www.csx.com. This makes it more difficult to provide information to residents and drivers when a blocked crossing occurs.
The city has unsuccessfully attempted to contact CSX about the ongoing issue. While it has been in contact with the Ohio Rail Commission and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, affecting change may only happen at the Federal level -- which is why the meeting with Jordan was requested. In April of this year, CSX won a lawsuit against the City of Defiance in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The judge ruled that Ohio law regulating the obstruction of roads by trains "is preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995," meaning local jurisdictions cannot issue fines to railroad companies for blocking street crossings. There have been several other court cases with this outcome.
“These are legitimate concerns. We’ve opened up a dialogue today and we’ll continue to look at this,” Jordan said after information was presented.
Congressman Jordan can be contacted at the Bucyrus office at 419-663-1426, or at the Lima office at 419-999-6455. The mailing address for his Washington, DC office is:
2056 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515