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Community concerns over blocked railroad crossings in Elkhart County

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - Elkhart County has a parking problem that some fear is a threat to public safety.

Early this afternoon, 16 News Now captured video of a train that was parked and blocking traffic at the County Road 13 crossing.

“It’s happening more and more frequently every week and it’s, it can be for hours on end that they’re blocking these crossings,” said Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman. “We’ve had police and ambulance calls that have gotten to a crossing that’s been blocked. They have to decide at that point is it best to go left, or right?”

Goshen has added two new railroad overpasses in the last five years to try and ease some of the pressure. At about the same time, the railroad did some rail work.

“They added a third line on our U.S. 33 stretch there. Third line was supposed to be for moving more trains. What we found is the third line has been what they use to park the trains on,” Mayor Stutsman explained.

Dan Graves in the manager at Builders Mart that sits next to the railroad tracks along U.S. 33. He says it is not uncommon to see parked trains blocking access to his business off U.S. 33 by blocking the crossing at C.R. 28. “Average day, it’s probably, there’s times where it’s blocked about two hours a day. There’s times where its blocked most all day,” said Graves. “Nothing I’ve been able to do about it. I’ve called the railroad company, they haven’t answered the phone. I’ve called the police many times.”

In 2018, an Indiana law that once allowed trains parked longer than ten minutes to be ticketed by police was struck down by the Indiana Supreme Court.

This week, 18 community and elected leaders signed a letter that seeks a meeting with Norfolk Southern no later than May 1st. “Basically saying. hey, can you stop parking the trains here? If you need to slow them down, you know, parking them for the Elkhart rail yard, so if you need to slow them down elsewhere, do that, but don’t park them in our community,” Mayor Stutsman said.

Norfolk Southern provided this written statement about the situation:

“Norfolk Southern is aware of the concerns in Goshen, Indiana, and is communicating with public officials on the matter. We are working closely with our transportation team to review local operations and pursue solutions. Norfolk Southern makes every effort to minimize the time that trains interrupt motor vehicle traffic at railroad crossings. Operational situations and weather events can require a train to stop or slow, at times resulting in a temporarily blocked crossing. We apologize for any inconveniences to the community. In all instances, Norfolk Southern works to resume the safe movement of a train as quickly as possible. If a train blocks a crossing for an extended period of time, please contact Norfolk Southern Police at 800-946-4744. Thank you. Martin Wattenbarger Norfolk Southern Corporation

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