Illinois high court tosses out time l...

Illinois high court tosses out time limits on trains blocking r...

There are 30 comments on the Chicago Tribune story from Jan 25, 2008, titled Illinois high court tosses out time limits on trains blocking r.... In it, Chicago Tribune reports that:

An Illinois law aimed at untangling blocked railroad crossings - long the bane of frustrated motorists and emergency responders - was thrown out by the state Supreme Court on Friday, raising fears that what ...

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Driver

United States

#1 Jan 25, 2008
The freight trains in and around Des Plaines that block crossings are horrible for commuters. Area business suffer because people drive around the roads that go through the town and take their business elsewhere.
Robert Pines

Sullivan, MO

#2 Jan 26, 2008
The Illinois Supreme Court as wined and dined as they are by the bottom dwelling railroads have no jurisdiction over Interstate Commerce which sitting trains slow down.
just southern

Warrenville, IL

#3 Jan 26, 2008
Hawk sees mouse, swoops down, mouse sees hawk and shows him middle finger, hawk eats mouse. Now Mundelein knows how mouse feels.
Small Bladder

Wilmette, IL

#4 Jan 26, 2008
As long as they make certain crossings PUBLIC URINATION ALLOWED ZONES I'll put up with it.
A voice of reason

Springfield, IL

#5 Jan 26, 2008
So how do we go about letting Washington know that this is extremely important legislation? This is common sense stuff here. It doesn't take a traffic engineer to realize that emergency vehicles must be given the right of way under all circumstances.

I often wondered why the railroads have more rights than all other transportation modes, as well as being able to legally disturb the peace at 2:00 AM by blowing the horn for miles at a time.
Joe

Chicago, IL

#6 Jan 26, 2008
A voice of reason wrote:
So how do we go about letting Washington know that this is extremely important legislation? This is common sense stuff here. It doesn't take a traffic engineer to realize that emergency vehicles must be given the right of way under all circumstances.
I often wondered why the railroads have more rights than all other transportation modes, as well as being able to legally disturb the peace at 2:00 AM by blowing the horn for miles at a time.
Railroads get what they pay for, same as airlines, same as car makers. That's why airline can cancel flights at will, make you sit on a tarmac for hours on end and we get cars that 18 MPG. Our government is corrupt, they don't give a hoot if we live or die. PAY UP AND YOU GET WHAT YOU WANT, NO MONEY THEN SHUT UP AND DIE.
Mario

AOL

#7 Jan 26, 2008
What will be said and or done when an
emergency response vehicle, police,
fire, or ambulance can't get to the
other side and/or has to go blocks
out of the way to find a vacant
crossing, hoping they are not too late to prevent a tragedy ?

JRR

Since: Jan 08

Central IL

#8 Jan 27, 2008
If the flow of motor vehicle traffic over railroad crossings is so immensely important, let the municipalities or the state build overpasses or underpasses at taxpayer expense. Chances are the railroad tracks were in place before your town existed, and many decades before urban sprawl caused highways, housing developments, and shopping malls to pop up all over the place.

As for "A voice of reason", trains have to stop for a variety of sound reasons – conflicting traffic, the need to switch in or out freight to local industries served by rail, and the train air brakes often must be pumped up and tested. One can't change the laws of physics, nor would one want to omit doing a proper (federally-required) test of the brakes – it would be stupid to put a train into motion unless one can ensure the train can be stopped. Failing to do these brake tests – which take time – would lead to a much greater catastrophe.

The same writer also complained about railroads being able to "legally disturbe the peace ... by blowing the horn for miles at a time."

This blowing of horns is a necessity to warn motorists at crossings of the approach of a train. Were the people who get hit at railroad crossings not so inclined to sue the railroad for their own lack of attention and caution, we might not have the need for trains to blow their horns at crossings.

Those who find train whistles to be annoying might exercise a little common sense by not buying property near railroad tracks.
A voice of reason

Springfield, IL

#9 Jan 27, 2008
JRR wrote:
If the flow of motor vehicle traffic over railroad crossings is so immensely important, let the municipalities or the state build overpasses or underpasses at taxpayer expense. Chances are the railroad tracks were in place before your town existed, and many decades before urban sprawl caused highways, housing developments, and shopping malls to pop up all over the place.
As for "A voice of reason", trains have to stop for a variety of sound reasons – conflicting traffic, the need to switch in or out freight to local industries served by rail, and the train air brakes often must be pumped up and tested. One can't change the laws of physics, nor would one want to omit doing a proper (federally-required) test of the brakes – it would be stupid to put a train into motion unless one can ensure the train can be stopped. Failing to do these brake tests – which take time – would lead to a much greater catastrophe.
The same writer also complained about railroads being able to "legally disturbe the peace ... by blowing the horn for miles at a time."
This blowing of horns is a necessity to warn motorists at crossings of the approach of a train. Were the people who get hit at railroad crossings not so inclined to sue the railroad for their own lack of attention and caution, we might not have the need for trains to blow their horns at crossings.
Those who find train whistles to be annoying might exercise a little common sense by not buying property near railroad tracks.
Okay speedbump. My brother in law has spent the last thirty years working for Burlington, so I’m not spouting off uninformed here. I understand brakes need to be checked, as well as other systems too, but the majority of delays in the railroad are caused by scheduling. Plain and simple, and anyone in the industry will tell you the same thing. All of the railroads are running many more trains on the same number of tracks because it’s how they make money and there are no laws in place to limit this practice.

If you actually believe that trains testing their brakes are the cause of the innumerable delays the railways force upon motor commuters, then you may have just illustrated why the railways are permitted to do as they please, without regard for the general safety and wellbeing of society. I wonder if you’d jump to such a silly defense of the system if your Mother passed while sitting in an ambulance as a train crossed the crossway for twenty minutes.

Also, your argument that the trains were in place before communities sprang up is seriously outdated. Just because it was there first does not inherently give it the right to impede on public safety. There aren’t too many industries that are allowed to put their bottom line above that of the public, but the railroads can.

And as far as the whistles go, I live less than a quarter mile from a crossing. The crossing does not cross a main or side street. It crosses the entrance to a parking lot for Metra riders, and since Metra only picks up and drops off three times day during the week only, the lot is closed the majority of the time. I grew up here, and I grew up riding my bicycle on the trails next to these tracks and then my dirt bike. The next crossing is a little more than four miles away, but the engineers that use those tracks lay on that horn coming into that crossing and stay on for up to three minutes each time. There’s a new high-end condo development next to these tracks and it’s become obvious that they just enjoy laying on it as they roll by this place. And when a tain is traveling through a one stop light town, do they really need to lay on the horn for miles before and after the crossing?

I’ve been through this argument before and it always comes down to the same thing: The railroad lobbyist’s deep pockets wins every time.
Bob_C

Pittsburgh, PA

#10 Jan 27, 2008
As a 30+ year engineer, neither crews nor supervision intentionally block ANY crossing. Trains don't operate like cars, they can't stop or start as quickly, are subject to malfunctions unknown to the average motorist, and traffic concerns (we can't just change lanes or turn around)of our own dictate our manner and ability to move. This added to all that JRR said above makes the one view efforts of state and local governments and citizens groups ineffective to down right stupid. Work with the RRs, or find your own solution - don't penalize crew or RR company because you didn't get up on time, or the kids are late for soccer. Thank you JRR.
A voice of reason

Springfield, IL

#11 Jan 27, 2008
It's really sad that the only people that can attempt any defense for the way railroads operate are actual railroad workers.

Who care's if Billy's late for soccer, or I'm late for work. I'm not a fool. I realize that they're big and cannot stop on a dime, but that is not a vaild reason to sit at a grade crossing for more than ten minutes in residential areas. If a train is so long that it takes more than ten minutes to cross a grade, then split the cars btw two trains.

Are you really going to sit there and tell everyone that the movement of frieght is more important than emergency services? If I follow such logic, thenwe no longer need to stop on the right for them because the movement of my cargo is no less important than what a train is carrying.

How about we all start (someday) making decisions based on the well being of the masses, instead of pushing agendas based on personal wants?

JRR

Since: Jan 08

Central IL

#12 Jan 27, 2008
A voice of reason wrote:
It's really sad that the only people that can attempt any defense for the way railroads operate are actual railroad workers.
Sorry, you guessed wrong. I'm just a bit more informed about the transportation industry than the average whiner here.
A voice of reason wrote:
Who care's if Billy's late for soccer, or I'm late for work. I'm not a fool. I realize that they're big and cannot stop on a dime, but that is not a vaild reason to sit at a grade crossing for more than ten minutes in residential areas.
How do you know what is a valid reason?
A voice of reason wrote:
If a train is so long that it takes more than ten minutes to cross a grade, then split the cars btw two trains.
You are showing your unfamiliarity with the Illinois law that was struck down. The 10-minute limit only applied to stopped trains and not to moving trains.

In a free market, the business -- in this case the railroad -- runs its operation in the way that produces the most economic efficiency. I'm not keen on the government telling the railroads they have to run short trains; that would raise the operating costs (labor, fuel, etc.).

Whether the general public realizes it or not, increasing the cost of moving freight raises the cost of everything shipped by rail -- which includes countless commodities you use in your home and business. Further increase in the cost drives traffic onto trucks, further clogging your already crowded highways. And then what happens to your ambulance stuck in traffic?
A voice of reason wrote:
Are you really going to sit there and tell everyone that the movement of frieght is more important than emergency services?
Extending that logic, that would mean no train would ever turn a wheel, in the off chance that it would delay an ambulance 45 seconds. After all, that could be the difference between life and death.

As to the importance of moving freight vs. emergency services, I repeat my statement from earlier. If the public believes that it is imperative to have a route to a medical facility not blocked by rail traffic, the public has the option of investing in underpasses that would accomplish this. Your desire to cross the railroad's PRIVATE PROPERTY produces little benefit to the railroad, and your statement that they should tailor their operations around any conceivable contingency is unrealistic and unfair. If the public doesn't perceive grade separation as a proper use of their tax dollars, then it is the public that has set its priorities.
A voice of reason wrote:
If I follow such logic, then we no longer need to stop on the right for them because the movement of my cargo is no less important than what a train is carrying.
You can choose to stop or not, but the laws of physics will make you the loser of that fight.
A voice of reason wrote:
How about we all start (someday) making decisions based on the well being of the masses, instead of pushing agendas based on personal wants?
Seems like you're arguing that your personal want to cross someone's private property when and how you please should prevail over the rights of the railroad to use its property for its intended purpose of moving freight that you and everyone else depends upon for their everyday life?
Robert Pines

Sullivan, MO

#13 Jan 27, 2008
http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/907
The Federal Railroad Administration WE pay $1.1 billion a year in to is obviously bedded down with the railroads in their merry-go-round approach to blocked crossings. What the hell is a Universal Vehicle Code and where is Universal Court judges?

The FEDs have gotten 1000s murdered with just the NO rules before the train rolls running down people crossing between railcars.

How much can a cell phone and loudspeaker cost? "Train is rolling in 60 seconds". OR a horn toot before the wheels roll?

Solution --- Get rid of the bought FEDS and judges.

JRR

Since: Jan 08

Central IL

#14 Jan 28, 2008
Robert Pines wrote:
http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/cont ent/907
The Federal Railroad Administration WE pay $1.1 billion a year in to is obviously bedded down with the railroads in their merry-go-round approach to blocked crossings. What the hell is a Universal Vehicle Code and where is Universal Court judges?
The FEDs have gotten 1000s murdered with just the NO rules before the train rolls running down people crossing between railcars.
How much can a cell phone and loudspeaker cost? "Train is rolling in 60 seconds". OR a horn toot before the wheels roll?
Solution --- Get rid of the bought FEDS and judges.
The statement about "thousands murdered" by being run down when crossing between rail cars is patently absurd; if anything, anyone killed as a result of crossing through or under a train is guilty of both criminal trespass and stupidity. They have no business being on the tracks any time other than at a crossing when the gates are up.
I never fail to be amazed how people who can barely muster a lucid argument or basic comprehension of the issues are often the first to cry "conspiracy".
Courts make judgements not based on popularity contests but based on what the law says -- as well they should.
Anyone who cares to educate themselves on the facts of the case and the legal basis for the Illinois Supreme Court's decision should read the court's opinion at http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/Supreme... .
A voice of reason

Springfield, IL

#15 Jan 28, 2008
JRR, I really want to debate the points you brought up, but I can’t for two reasons. First being that you live outside the Chicago area and without living with this EVERYDAY, you don’t get it. The second is that I have no patience for those that refuse to entertain progressive thoughts or ideals. You make a lot of points in heavy favor of the railroads having overriding rights to do as they please, so stating that you or a family member aren’t, or weren’t, in the industry is BS. That, or you own stock.

This is a common sense argument. The railroads, like every other industry in this nation, must make accommodations for doing business within large urban areas. Very much unlike Urbana, where the population is less than that of a single suburb here. Things that work within such small towns do not work in larger ones.

You may not be for the government telling the trains that they must shorten the trains a bit so that they don’t block traffic flows, but the majority of Chicagoans sure do. There are just too many vehicles of all kinds here to not address this. Yes, it will increase costs of goods, just as it should because it is a large urban area where costs are expected to be higher.

And your private property stance for the rails is silly. In this great country of ours there is this little thing called eminent domain, to which the government actually gathers land to make it available to the railroads and utilities. I know you won’t think so, but the MAJORITY will believe that if we the people are going to give land for the rails, it is not too much to ask that they schedule the crossing of their “private property” in concert with overall transportation grid requirements?

But you’re right JRR. The freight in that train blocking the road that leads to the hospital is much more important than the person’s life in the ambulance that’s going to the hospital. I don’t know what I was thinking. Foolish me.

I hope that when your house is burning and your wife or kids can’t get out, that you’re as understanding with the firemen when they tell you they were delayed by a train. Or perhaps when a loved one passes on the way to the hospital because the ambulance, while driving down a public road, was stopped for fifteen minutes while attempting to cross a 30 foot wide piece of private property. After that happens, then you bring yourself back here and we can talk. Until then, please don’t speak to what you don’t know.
Robert Pines

Sullivan, MO

#16 Jan 28, 2008
JRR wrote:
<quoted text>
The statement about "thousands murdered" by being run down when crossing between rail cars is patently absurd; if anything, anyone killed as a result of crossing through or under a train is guilty of both criminal trespass and stupidity. They have no business being on the tracks any time other than at a crossing when the gates are up.
I never fail to be amazed how people who can barely muster a lucid argument or basic comprehension of the issues are often the first to cry "conspiracy".

Courts make judgements not based on popularity contests but based on what the law says -- as well they should.
Anyone who cares to educate themselves on the facts of the case and the legal basis for the Illinois Supreme Court's decision should read the court's opinion at http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/Supreme... .
Actually it is a "conspiracy" since railroads have murdered 100s of 1000s while these so-called in charge judges let them.If there is a problem and it is a KNOWN problem and the killer railroad does nothing that is MURDER. These judges need their legal lisences striped and the real "By the people for the people" put into office.

That, and the politicans being hauled around on the illegal whistle tour removed.

JRR

Since: Jan 08

Central IL

#17 Jan 28, 2008
Robert Pines wrote:
<quoted text>
Actually it is a "conspiracy" since railroads have murdered 100s of 1000s while these so-called in charge judges let them.If there is a problem and it is a KNOWN problem and the killer railroad does nothing that is MURDER. These judges need their legal lisences striped and the real "By the people for the people" put into office.
That, and the politicans being hauled around on the illegal whistle tour removed.
I see. So if someone chooses to kill themselves by throwing themselves underneath my truck, it's my fault for being there and not their fault for being stupid?

I can see why our country is overrun by liability lawyers. No one wants to bear the responsibility for their own actions -- it's always someone else's fault, especially if you can tap in to their bank account.

Your reference to "illegal whistle tour" makes me scratch my head trying to figure out what you're talking about, but I suspect it simply means that you have little contact with reality.

JRR

Since: Jan 08

Central IL

#18 Jan 28, 2008
To "A voice of reason", thank you for your mostly reasonable tone even as we disagree.
A voice of reason wrote:
JRR, I really want to debate the points you brought up, but I can't for two reasons. First being that you live outside the Chicago area and without living with this EVERYDAY, you don't get it. The second is that I have no patience for those that refuse to entertain progressive thoughts or ideals.
Though I live downstate, I grew up in Chicago, spend significant time in the area, and am familiar with the situation you describe, though I don't live with it every day.
My idea of progressive thought doesn't simply attempt to solve problems by creating more laws. My idea of progressive suggests that people upset about the crossing situation should help themselves by investing in underpasses, rather than whining about how the railroads run their business and how they need to be forced to change.
A voice of reason wrote:
This is a common sense argument. The railroads, like every other industry in this nation, must make accommodations for doing business within large urban areas.
The railroads mere existence is what caused Chicago to be the large urban area it is today. And it's one thing to be accommodating, but it's another thing to cut your own throat because your new neighbors don't like something you've been doing for years.

JRR

Since: Jan 08

Central IL

#19 Jan 28, 2008
A voice of reason wrote:
You may not be for the government telling the trains that they must shorten the trains a bit so that they don&#8217;t block traffic flows, but the majority of Chicagoans sure do.
The wishes and needs of the majority of Chicagoans must be balanced against the needs of the rest of the nation. For better or worse, we are a hub through which much of the nations goods travel. The freight that flows through Mundelein is part of the global flow of commerce; this is not a purely local issue.
In layman's terms, the Illinois Supreme Court said that a state law or municipal ordinance is trumped in this case because regulation of interstate commerce is the domain of the federal government.
The court is not suggesting that the issue of blocked crossings is unimportant; it's simply stating that where interstate commerce is involved, the issue should be dealt with at the federal level. One of the issues with the Mundelein case was that they didn't accommodate the railroads' responsibilities (for brake tests and other mandatory safety proecesses) under federal law.
I believe a new law could be written to satisfy the public interest in having crossings open for motor traffic while also satisfying the railroads' operational needs and statutory obligations under federal law. Reading the case itself, I can see that the situation in Mundelein had to be incredibly irritating, but I really can't see how it could have been avoided. Sometimes bad things happen, and no amount of laws or hand-wringing can set them right.
A voice of reason wrote:
I know you won't think so, but the MAJORITY will believe that if we the people are going to give land for the rails, it is not too much to ask that they schedule the crossing of their &#8220;private property&#8221; in concert with overall transportation grid requirements?
There were railroads who obtained land grants from the government when this state was wilderness, but the railroads by and large bought their land with private capital. Don't forget that railroads pay taxes on their land just like you and I.
The railroads did not create the problems of urban sprawl and congested roads. While they surely have a role in helping solve these problems, it would be unfair and contrary to free enterprise principles for them to bear the burden for an "improvement" that benefits someone else but is contrary to their interests.
When you talk about the majority, don't forget that we're talking about a national (or global) transportation system. The stakeholders in this issue includes EVERYONE who depends on our transportation network.
This is why the state's high court held that this was a federal matter.
Robert Pines

Sullivan, MO

#20 Jan 30, 2008
JRR wrote:
<quoted text>I see. So if someone chooses to kill themselves by throwing themselves underneath my truck, it's my fault for being there and not their fault for being stupid?
I can see why our country is overrun by liability lawyers. No one wants to bear the responsibility for their own actions -- it's always someone else's fault, especially if you can tap in to their bank account.
Your reference to "illegal whistle tour" makes me scratch my head trying to figure out what you're talking about, but I suspect it simply means that you have little contact with reality.
It's nothing to do with ...if someone chooses to kill themselves by throwing themselves underneath my truck...railroad hired gun. It's a big damn train blocking peoples paths from point A to point B. Let's all go down to the railyards and block the tracks and roads leading into the tracks and if some railroader decides to go in between our vehicles we'll just run them down like dogs.

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