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600 E. Boulevard Ave., Dept. 408
Bismarck, ND 58505-0480

701.328.2400 - Phone
877.245.6685 - Toll-Free
800.366.6888 - TTY
701.328.2410 - Fax
ndpsc@nd.gov

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Blocked Crossings - IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, CALL 911

Report Blocked Crossings

We understand the inconvenience caused by blocked railroad crossings can be frustrating. In recent years, changes in rail operations and public perception have made this a nationwide issue. The Public Service Commission (Commission) and transportation agencies from other states have raised these concerns with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

To understand the magnitude of the situation, the FRA has an online system that allows the public and law enforcement to report blocked crossings. This will also allow the federal govenment and states to determine the extent of the problem.
FRA Press Release on Blocked Crossing Website

 

Steps to Report a Blocked Crossing

This is easily and conveniently done using your smartphone while at the blocked crossing or at a later time using your smart device or PC. Be advised that the FRA system will NOT accept reports which are seven (7) days or older.

  1. Report the Blocked Crossing to the Railroad: Contact the railroad using the toll-free number listed on the blue Emergency Notification System (ENS) sign that is posted at the crossing. It will look like the one below.

  2. Record Information: The Commission highly encourages you to file your blocked crossing complaint with the FRA immediately. Please record the following information for your complaint:

    a. Train blocking crossing - or - Crossing lights/gates activated, but no train.

    b. Date and time of blockage

    c. Duration of blockage

    d. Any immediate impacts observed (i.e. first responders unable to cross tracks; pedestrians observed climbing over/under/through cars, etc.)

    e. Any additional comments (i.e. school arrival/dismissal disrupted; postal or other deliveries delayed; fewer customers visiting business; traffic congestion/gridlock; etc.)

  3. File blocked crossing report with the FRA: https://www.fra.dot.gov/blockedcrossings/

 

North Dakota Century Code

Blocked crossing complaints have increased in recent years as railroads are striving to reduce operating costs by increasing train lengths causing crossings to be blocked for a longer period of time. In some cases, trains need to stop due to disabled equipment, switching operations, safety protocols, etc.

North Dakota Century Code section 49-11-19 prohibits a railroad from blocking a crossing for longer than 10 consecutive minutes, but also includes these exceptions:

 

Consider these important items

 

With that being said, in the last few years many federal courts have ruled that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 granted exclusive jurisdiction over the speed and movement of trains to the federal government. This federal preemption likely makes the North Dakota statute on this issue unenforceable. Keep in mind that North Dakota is not the only state dealing with blocked crossings. This is a national problem and states are strongly requesting that the FRA develop regulations to address the issue. The FRA is the only government agency that could consider creating rules to address blocked crossings. Until federal rules are developed, Commission staff will forward blocked crossing complaints to the FRA for all public crossings in North Dakota and will work with railroads when there is an imminent safety hazard resulting from a blocked crossing. You may also report a blocked crossing utilizing the link above.

 

More Information

A 2006 report by the FRA, "Impact of Blocked Highway/Rail Grade Crossings on Emergency Response Services" provides some insight into this difficult issue. Additionally, here is a slideshow presentation put together by the FRA detailing blocked crossings on national level: Blocked Crossings.

 

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