REGION 8 INVESTIGATES: First responders discuss plan for blocked railroad crossings

Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 8:48 PM CST
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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - Delays at train crossings can be frustrating when you need emergency assistance and are on the wrong side of a train.

Lawrence County has a handful of railroad crossings that can block heavily traveled roadways when a train passes through.

Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Perry Hutton said it’s one of the things his team has to deal with, but when a train crosses the track during an emergency, it can be an issue.

“It can be frustrating, but we do utilize mutual aid agreements with other departments if we are completely blocked,” he explained. “It does delay our response time a little bit, but usually we work through those challenges and utilize other departments with that.”

In Walnut Ridge and Hoxie, there is a way around the train most of the time, but in Ravenden, a train traveling through can block the tracks for a while.

Sheriff Tony Waldrupe said other counties and city departments will be able to respond should a train be across the tracks.

“Either Ravenden Police Department, if they’re on the other side of the situation, or we can reach out to Sharp County, they can assist us, and also Randolph County would have access to come in on Highway 90 out of their county to assist,” he said.

The Federal Railroad Administration said trains do have to watch how much time they spend blocking heavily traveled crossings.

Region 8 News reached out for an interview regarding federal law and train crossings, but the agency sent the following statement:

“There is currently no federal statute or regulation regarding how long trains may block highway-rail grade crossings nor one restricting train length.”

You can report it to the FRA through its website if you’re stopped at a crossing for longer than 20 minutes.