MOORE — A street in Moore was blocked by a train for more than a day, forcing drivers to find alternate routes.
From about 2 p.m. Monday to about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, a train prevented traffic from crossing over the tracks on Main Street east of Broadway. There were some reports of a train blocking 4th Street traffic later on Tuesday, though this is a regular occurrence.
This is because a "siding," or a track that runs parallel to the main track used for various operations, runs through Moore. Trains will stop on this track while the other is free for movement, Joe Sloan with BNSF Public Affairs explained.
"BNSF makes every effort to keep trains moving, but at times trains have to hold as part of regular operations," Sloan said.
"If trains are holding in Moore for an extended time, the crews determine if the train should be 'cut' (crossing opened to vehicle traffic) or kept together depending on when the train will next move. The move is determined by central dispatch, which looks at track availability, resources such as crews and locomotives, if a track windows for repairs is in place, customer demands, etc."
Fourth Street, which normally catches the brunt of traffic backups during train crossings, remained open during the 24-hour plus ordeal. Still, occurrences like this are precisely why Moore voters approved a bond package to construct an underpass on Fourth, much like the one that was built on 19th Street to the south.
And this may have been the first instance where the state's efforts to combat this issue -- which is not exclusive to Moore -- with a new law, had it been in effect yet. House Bill 2472, authored by House Speaker Charles McCall, would, with a few exceptions, fine railroad operators if their train stopped on the tracks in a way that prevents vehicular traffic from moving for longer than 10 minutes.
It is currently on the Senate Floor awaiting a vote after the Senate Rules Committee passed it with some amendments. If it is passed by the senate and then signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, the law would take effect Nov. 1.
The Oklahoma Railroad Association opposes the measure. It, like BNSF, wants a solution to this problem that is based around infrastructure improvements, like the planned underpass.
"The long term solution is more grade-separated crossing," Sloan said. "[The] City of Moore is unique as the voters approved a bond(s) to construct a grade separation at 4th Street crossing. As communities grow around rail operations, few build grade separated crossings due to the cost. BNSF staff have met with, and will continue to meet with ODOT staff to discuss long term solutions in communities, like Moore, where sidings are located. The majority of the complaints of occupied crossings I received come from communities with sidings."
ORA has also said that, as railroads are federally regulated, the state does not have the ability to give state and local law enforcement the power to fine railroad operators for blocking vehicular traffic.