Rail Blocked Crossing Statute Upheld, Departing From Overwhelming Precedent

Many states and municipalities have (or used to have) laws that limit the amount of time a railroad may block a traffic intersection. Time and again, courts have determined that these laws are preempted by either the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), or both. Every court considering ICCTA preemption has found the blocked crossing law was preempted, or has been overturned for failing to find ICCTA preemption. See People v. Burlington N. Santa Fe R.R., 148 Cal. Rptr. 3d 243, 255 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 2012); see also Eagle Marine Industries, Inc. v. Union P. R. Co., 845 N.E.2d 869, 872 (Ill. App. 5th Dist. 2006), rev’d, 882 N.E.2d 522 (Ill. 2008). Every court but one considering FRSA preemption has found the blocked crossing law was preempted. That one outlier court (an Ohio state appeals court) has not been followed even within Ohio; Ohio courts instead have followed a contrary Federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that was decided two years later. See State v. Wheeling & Lake Erie Ry. Co., 743 N.E.2d 513, 513 (Ohio App. 9th Dist. 2000); see also CSX Transp. Inc. v. City of Plymouth, 283 F.3d 812 (6th Cir. 2002). The issue appeared to be settled: state blocked-crossing statutes are not enforceable.