Blocked tracks plague Huntingburg drivers


HUNTINGBURG — People have been noticing lately that trains have been sitting on the tracks and blocking roads in Huntingburg, sometimes for as long as an hour.

Norfolk Southern officials have acknowledged the issue.

“Norfolk Southern is aware of the concerns in Huntingburg, Indiana,” Norfolk’s media team said to The Herald via email. “We are looking into the matter and working closely with our transportation team to review local operations.”

This has caused traffic to back up on the roads, including U.S. 231, the main thoroughfare through the city. It has also caused vehicles, including big trucks, to try and find an alternate route.

“There are vehicles, particularly trucks, that are taking routes that aren’t truck routes, and causing problems in neighborhoods,” Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner said.

Unfortunately, the city has no authority to make the trains move. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last fall that local governments can’t fine railroad companies for blocking train crossings, regardless of how long a crossing is blocked.

“I can’t tell them to move,” Spinner said. “It’s their track.”

He has contacted Norfolk and was told that the trains do have more cars to make them longer in length because of a change in its business model. As far as why the trains are stopping in the first place, he has not gotten an answer.

“What we’re trying to do now is document these long stops. I want to tell Norfolk, there was a train on the track at this time on this date,” Spinner said. “We’re documenting to ask them why. Why is it happening? I’m not sure if it will solve the problem, but at least we will know why it’s suddenly happening.”

And it’s not just happening in Huntingburg. Spinner said he spoke to a state senator from northern Indiana recently during a transportation meeting who said he’s heard about similar traffic interruptions happening in communities in his jurisdiction.

Finding out why Norfolk Southern trains are now stopping more and blocking intersections for so long has been a challenge. And while some people may believe the trains are stopping because the new overpass is available for drivers on the west side of Huntingburg, Norfolk’s media team did not confirm that. The team stated that there are situations that may cause the train to stop, though the kind of situations were not listed.

“Norfolk Southern makes every effort to minimize the time that trains interrupt motor vehicle traffic at railroad crossings,” according to the email. “At times, operational situations might require a train to stop or slow, resulting in a temporarily blocked crossing.

“We apologize for any inconveniences to the community.”

Norfolk’s media team said people should call the company if this happens.

“If a train blocks a crossing for an extended period of time, residents can contact Norfolk Southern Police at 800-946-4744,” the email said. “This number is on the emergency notification sign posted at every highway-rail grade crossing.”

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