Plymouth’s railroad problems-far from over
Feb. 17, 2018 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Stalled trains blocking tracks at Plymouth’s four main railroad crossings for hours on end, month after month of complaints from frustrated motorists, fruitless rhetoric from politicians and CSX Railroad representatives leave a serious issue unsolved that has for years plagued this major railroad town of only two square miles.
Public safety issues abound when fire trucks and ambulances must abort and re-route emergency runs, when mothers are trapped in traffic with babies, when pedestrians step dangerously between train car couplers and hazardous tank-cars idle across the tracks-loaded with toxic and flammable liquids- all adding up to the frightful risks of stopped trains.
This week Plymouth officials again reported CSX trains were blocking city crossings after receiving complaints about the Ann Arbor Trail and Mill Street crossing. The email alert instructed those with railroad complaints to call city hall to report problems. The listed telephone line rings at the Detroit office of Senator Debbie Stabenow.
The questions remain.Where does the truth lie and what has to happen before our citizenry will be safe.
Is there a limit to how long a train can block a roadway?
“No…Restricting the amount of time a train can occupy a crossing has been determined to be an infringement on interstate commerce. Only the Federal Government can regulate commerce, and no restrictions currently exist. “ Michigan Department of Transportation website
What is the City doing about the delays?
“CSX Railroad Trains are regulated by the Federal Government and the local units of government or the City have no authority over trains and how long they block crossings. Our best recommendation is to contact your federal legislators and request relief.” Plymouth City Manager Paul Sincock, Oct. 2017
Why is the railroad always blocking the tracks?
“CSX is transitioning to a new operating model, called Precision Scheduled Railroading, which is intended to optimize the use of all assets, including locomotives, rail cars and infrastructure, in proving a cost effective, reliable, predicable freight transportation product to customers…” Rob Doolittle-CSX Assistant Vice President –Media Relations, Oct. 2017
What are our state legislators doing to help fix the problem?
Last November CSX North Region Superintendent Robert Dales and Federal Railroad Administration officials talked to representatives from Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Canton Township, Huron Township and Livonia during a conference call arranged by Stabenow, who did not attend the telephone conference meeting. Dales promised he had “adjusted some train schedules” and “installed underground air compressors’ in three locations to recharge the cars’ air braking system more quickly. Livingston promised to “work on a protocol for better communication.”
A month earlier, Congressman David Trot wrote to former CSX CEO, Hunter Harrison describing what was once a disturbance, as a “significant public safety issue.”
“It is with regret that these blocked railroads have now become an annual event, with still no sufficient explanations as to why they are commonplace and how they can be prevented” Rep. David Trott- Detroit News, Oct. 25, 2017
Signs placed by the city last summer listing telephone numbers for CSX Railroad, Stabenow, Trott and Senator Gary Peters still remain at the city’s four major railroad crossings advising motorists to report crossings by telephone to their representative or the Federal Railroad Administration. The problem is not over.