Soliday bill would let INDOT determine railroad track rule
By Matt Mikus email@example.com January 9, 2013 12:45PM
A CSX train idles on the tracks at the railroad crossing on Old Hobart Road in the Miller section of Gary, Ind. Friday January 27, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:25AM
INDIANAPOLIS — A requirement for railroad crossings to have 1,500 feet of clear view of the tracks may be removed from the state law and placed under the Indiana Department of Transportation’s regulations. The bill introduced in the House of Representatives received its first hearing Wednesday.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, authored the bill, which would delegate INDOT to set the line of sight required for railroad crossings. Setting the standards by the department, he said, would allow engineers to determine the proper sight distance, instead of lawmakers.
“Philosophically, I like to see technical things done by technical people,” Soliday said, “and policy things done by policy people. Engineers should determine the standards based on empirical evidence. Not on us whose purpose is to set general policy.”
He added that other states have similar sets, but at much shorter distances. Illinois has 500 feet, Ohio has 600, and 10 states have 350 feet.
Members of the railroad industry and one union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainman, support the bill, noting that different standards should be set, depending on the external variables like the train’s speed and the surrounding environment.
Kenny Edward from the United Transportation Union voiced opposition to the bill, saying reducing the sight distance would not increase safety. “To make the distance shorter, it doesn’t reduce the amount of fatalities,” Edward said.
Indiana is ranked as the eighth highest in the nation for railroad crossing deaths according to Operation Lifesaver Inc., but lawmakers also pointed out that the state has the fourth highest total mileage of railroad tracks in the nation. Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said accidents at rail crossings can happen due to a number of variables.
“Wouldn’t it be better to let an engineer factor those variables?” McMillin said.
The committee decided to hold the bill and discuss possible changes before the next committee meeting.