June 22-26, 2001



WHEREAS, trains blocking traffic at railroad grade crossings is a longstanding, nationwide problem, with more lives and property at great risk because emergency responders are repeatedly blocked or delayed for critical minutes; and

WHEREAS, many communities must utilize railroad grade crossings to provide emergency services to parts of their communities and large sections of some communities are rendered inaccessible to emergency services when trains block railroad grade crossings; and

WHEREAS, school children walking to school may be tempted to crawl through stopped trains that are blocking the grade crossing, including the sidewalks, leading to their schools; and

WHEREAS, a fire doubles in size every 20 seconds, without resuscitation efforts brain cells begin dying in just 4 to 6 minutes, and in trauma, the goal is the transport of the patient to appropriate hospital resources within the Golden Hour from on-set; and

WHEREAS, waiting for a train to pass or detouring around a blocked road can lengthen emergency response times thereby decreasing the chance for a positive outcome; and

WHEREAS, there are numerous examples of emergency vehicles being blocked by trains, including the following:

  • In 2000, EMS units in Delta Township, Michigan were blocked by a train for a few extra minutes as a boy burned to death on the other side of the crossing;

  • In 2000, a grand jury in Jackson, Mississippi found that emergency vehicles were required to take an extra 25 minutes to go to the nearest alternate route around a crossing frequently blocked by stopped trains;

  • In 1999, in Ohio, an ambulance had to be rerouted 20 minutes out of its way because of a stopped train;

  • In 1997, three homes in West Virginia were destroyed as firefighters responding to the blaze were blocked for 15 minutes at a railroad crossings; and

    WHEREAS, stopped trains blocking roadways cause accidents and may contribute to instances of road rage; and

    WHEREAS, courts have stricken down local and state ordinances and statutes regulating the length of time that a train may block a roadway; and

    WHEREAS, there are no federal statutes or regulations dictating the length of time and time of day a train may block a grade crossing, local jurisdictions have no remedy to this situation,

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The U.S. Conference of Mayors urges Congress and the President to enact legislation that either requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to regulate, or allows state or local jurisdictions to regulate, the length of time a train may block a roadway, in the interest of public health and safety.