Follow up file:
The question below ran Nov. 30, 2017, in Ask the Times.
Q. I have been inconvenienced several times over the past several years by stopped freight trains in Bettendorf, Davenport, Rock Island and Moline. Most recently, I was parked at Leach Park in Bettendorf and was unable to leave for approximately 30 minutes. This has happened twice in the last two weeks. Are there state or local laws that state how long a stopped train can block traffic? This could be a real problem if emergency vehicles were unable to pass through. – Doug, Rock Island
A. Marianne Manko, director of the office of public affairs for the Illinois Commerce Commission, said, "Due to the doctrine of federal preemption, the Illinois Commerce Commission has no regulatory authority over trains blocking crossings in Illinois. In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that an Illinois statute prohibiting the blocking of a railroad crossing by a rail carrier was unconstitutional and preempted by federal law. A copy of the Illinois Supreme Court ruling is attached. Only the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has the authority to regulate blocked crossings."
Manko provided a copy of an article posted Jan. 26, 2008, on the Chicago Tribune's website. To view the full article go to http://trib.in/2nvOhy7
Mike Stead, Illinois Commerce Commission railroad department manager, said, "It is true that no federal regulation exists to address blocked crossings. However, FRA is the federal agency that can issue a blocked crossing regulation. Numerous courts around the country have ruled that states cannot regulate blocked crossings, due to the doctrine of federal preemption. Only the Federal Railroad Administration has the authority to regulate blocked crossings. In January 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the state of Illinois' existing law prohibiting stopped trains from blocking a public grade crossing for longer than 10 minutes unconstitutional and preempted by federal law. The Court's ruling means that the state of Illinois is preempted from regulating blocked crossings.
"The Illinois law that prohibits stopped trains from blocking a public grade crossing for more than 10 minutes was ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court in January 2008. The Court’s ruling means that the state of Illinois is preempted from regulating blocked crossings. Only the Federal Railroad Administration has the authority to regulate blocked crossings. [See Eagle Marine Industries, Inc. v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, 227 Ill. 2d 377, 882 N.E.2d 522 (2008).] It's understandable to be confused since the law is still on the books, so someone searching for a blocked crossing statute in Illinois will find it, but may not know it's null and void."
Desiree French, public affairs specialist with the Federal Railroad Administration, and Chris Curran, Bettendorf city attorney, also provided additional information. To view their full statements, visit qctimes.com/askthetimes