|Railroad Grade Crossing
February 28, 2003
I have received a number of inquiries recently from people upset about long waits at railroad grade crossings while trains are passing. Generally, people want to know what their rights are and what action they can take.
Grade crossing blockages by trains are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and are limited to 10 minutes. See http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/Graphics/592.PDF for the full text of the applicable General Order. Prosecution of violations is by the Richmond city attorney as a misdemeanor. The fine can be up to $1,000 per incident, and the City of Richmond has successfully prosecuted excessive blockages in the past.
If you become the victim of an excessive blockage and wish to complain, send a signed declaration to the city attorney, as follows:
Malcolm Hunter, City Attorney
City of Richmond
Civic Center Plaza
2600 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, CA 94804
My name is __________________ and I am 18 years of age or older. I reside at ___________________________. On (date) I observed a train blocking the crossing at _____________________ from (time) to (time), a period in excess of 10 minutes. The name on the engine identified the railroad company as _________________. The engine number (optional) was ________.
I am requesting that you prosecute in accordance with PUC General Order 135.
Signed (Name) and (date)
The only exception to this procedure is at the West Richmond Avenue crossing where a specific agreement governs the relationship of the City and BNSF. The full text follows, but for blockages, the procedure is as follows:
"If it is alleged by the City that the Railway has occupied the Richmond Avenue crossing in violation of PUC General Order No. 135, then the parties shall exchange and discuss the evidence. If the parties agree that one or more violations have occurred, the Railway shall pay to the City the sum of $750 for each violation. If the parties do not agree that one or more violations have occurred, the parties may agree to go to mediation, but if the parties do not agree to mediation, the City may file criminal charges against the Railway for one or more alleged violations of General Order No. 135 in accordance with Section 2110 of the California Public Utilities Code. In such event either party may terminate this Agreement after providing thirty days prior written notice to the other party."
BETWEEN THE BURLINGTON NORTHERN AND SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY
CITY OF RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA
Pursuant to this Agreement, The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (“Railway”) and the City of Richmond, California (“City”), hereby agree as follows:
1. Railway will construct a second lead track on the north end of its Richmond Yard. Such construction shall be completed for use no later than October 1, 1999.
2. Railway shall limit its occupancy of the Richmond Avenue crossing to activities required by business necessity.
3. Railway shall not occupy Richmond Avenue during the period from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. each day and from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day, except for emergencies.
4. Railway shall make its best effort and extend its fullest cooperation to the City to move the truck entrance at the Richmond Yard from its current location at the east side of the Yard to the west side of the Yard in order to eliminate the additional time taken while occupying Richmond Avenue to allow trucks to go from the east side to the west side where loading activities occur.
5. Railway shall monitor its switching activities in the area of the Richmond Avenue crossing on a regular and continuous basis. Railway has installed and placed in operation a crossing monitoring device at the Richmond Avenue crossing and the data generated from said device will be made available to the Richmond City Attorney’s office for inspection and copying upon request. If said crossing is occupied for more than ten minutes based on the data generated, Railway will take the appropriate action, if any, and report the matter to Railway’s counsel.
6. Railway shall undertake an ongoing program of educating its employees about the regulations controlling blockages of crossings. Railway has notified and will continue to notify all Richmond crews about the importance of complying with said regulations. A copy of each notice and the date it was issued will be sent to the Richmond City Attorney’s office upon request.
Additionally, the Railway shall:
A. Post a notice in the employees’ ready room that employees must comply with said regulations and that failure to comply may subject the offending employee to disciplinary action.
B. Give the same notice to all employees at least twice a year, at least once in March and once in September of each year.
C. Give the same notice to each employee at the time he or she is newly assigned to duties at the Richmond Yard. A record that each such employee received a copy of the notice on the date of assignment will be maintained in the main office at the Richmond Yard.
7. Railway shall erect a free-standing, metal sign reading “If crossing blocked for over 10 minutes, call 1(800) 832-5452, ext #3" on the driver’s side of the roadway going in both directions; the sign shall be no smaller than 24" wide and 36" high and readable at night. Any modifications to the above specifications must be approved by the City Attorney’s office, which approval shall not unreasonably be withheld.
8. All complaints received by Railway through the above listed phone numbers must be reported to Railway’s counsel no later than 72 hours after receipt of the complaint. Regarding all complaints received directly by the Railway, Railway’s counsel will send the following information, to the extent available, to the Richmond City Attorney’s office: The names of all complainants, the dates of their complaints, the dispositions, and copies of the letters from the Railway to the complainants explaining the action taken.
9. The City shall report complaints from citizens to Railway’s counsel within one week of receiving the complaint.
Regarding all complaints received by the Railway from the City, Railway’s counsel will inform the Richmond City Attorney’s office of the disposition of the complaint.
10. If it is alleged by the City that the Railway has occupied the Richmond Avenue crossing in violation of PUC General Order No. 135, then the parties shall exchange and discuss the evidence. If the parties agree that one or more violations have occurred, the Railway shall pay to the City the sum of $750 for each violation. If the parties do not agree that one or more violations have occurred, the parties may agree to go to mediation, but if the parties do not agree to mediation, the City may file criminal charges against the Railway for one or more alleged violations of General Order No. 135 in accordance with Section 2110 of the California Public Utilities Code. In such event either party may terminate this Agreement after providing thirty days prior written notice to the other party.
11. The City’s remedies for a breach of this Agreement by Railway shall be limited to those remedies enumerated in paragraph 10 above.
This Agreement commences on the date written hereunder and terminates on November 1, 2008, unless earlier terminated pursuant to paragraph 10.
Dated: August 18, 1999
Jeffrey B. Wright Isiah Turner
THE BURLINGTON NORTHERN CITY OF RICHMOND
AND SANTA FE RAILWAY