New Oklahoma House Bill could impose bigger penalties on rail companies when trains block roads

JOHNSTON COUNTY, Okla. (KXII) - The Oklahoma Speaker of the House, Charles McCall, filed a bill that would fine rail companies for blocking railroad intersections with stopped trains.

Moving trains are a sign of economic growth in Oklahoma, according to McCall.

However, when trains stop and block intersections, they can cause headaches for everyone

In towns, like Davis or Ravia, stopped trains can cause delays for mail, trash pickup and average drivers, sometimes up to two hours.

Stopped trains also put public safety at risk, blocking emergency services like police, firefighter or ambulances.

Kenny Power, Johnston County EMS Director, said when his staff is delayed, it adds to the response time as ambulances go around on gravel back roads.

Sometimes they deal with angry drivers or large semi trucks also looking for a way around, which could create another dangerous situation.

"So you have the potential to go from your one initial call to another call," Power said. "Those could involve an emergency vehicle just as much as you or anyone else driving down the road."

McCall, who serves Atoka, Garvin, Johnston and Murray counties, said he filed House Bill 2472 after working with railroad companies for years, but saw no improvements.

"During this election cycle, the people in my district have just said 'Listen, this is unacceptable'," McCall said in a phone interview. "At this point, I concur. We're tried every other type of resolution."

The bill would allow law enforcement to give tickets to rail companies that block an intersection for more than 10 minutes, up to a $10,000 fine, a rule that Power said might make the difference.

"Until you can get into people's pockets, then they really don't have anything to worry about."

McCall said will be presented to the House Transportation Committee on Thursday.

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