ENID, Okla. — Enid Police Department said Friday it will continue to work with railroads in regard to a new law that could result in a fine if a train blocks a roadway for more than 10 minutes.
"The Enid Police Department has always maintained a positive working relationship with the railroad companies operating within our jurisdiction," EPD Capt. Tim Jacobi said. "Typically, we will immediately contact the railroad company as soon as we start receiving citizen complaints about a train blocking the roadway for an extended period of time. That action alone usually results in the railroad company making an extra effort to clear the crossing as soon as possible given the circumstances.
"We intend to continue operating in this fashion and believe it remains the most functional and immediate way to remedy the problem."
EPD has received recent inquiries from residents concerning the enforcement of blocked railroad crossings in light of the new state law effective July 1. The law allows for enforcement action to be taken when a train blocks a roadway for more than 10 minutes. The law includes a number of circumstances and exceptions that extend the allotted time limit.
Enforcement of the law is an administrative action against the railroad company through Oklahoma Corporation Commission and not a criminal action prosecuted in any district or municipal court. The maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine.
"Functionally, enforcement would require a police officer to be present and observe the train blocking the roadway for at least a 10-minute period, obtain all pertinent information from the train (company and/or conductor name), and determine that none of the exemptions are present that extend the allotted time," Jacobi said. "Once this is accomplished, the officer would fill out a complaint citation and deliver it to the city attorney’s office. The city attorney would be responsible for properly serving notice and documentation of the complaint to the railroad company and the OCC, as well as prosecuting the complaint during any later OCC hearings."
Similar laws in Kansas and Texas have been overturned in recent years, citing the fact railroad companies are engaged in interstate commerce and, as such, can only be regulated by federal law, Jacobi said.