There has been a flurry of phone calls and activity since a Norfolk Southern train blocked railroad crossings in Archbold for more than seven hours on Saturday, Feb. 20.
Brad Grime, mayor, said he spoke with Bob Latta (RBowling Green), U.S. representative representing Archbold, on Monday, after Grime emailed Latta’s Washington, D.C., office.
“The call went really well with Bob. I honestly think he is sincerely going to attack and address the issue” of trains blocking the Archbold crossings for hours,” Grime said.
“Whether things happen because he tries, it’s hard to say.
“He was pretty upset about it, too, to be honest with you, because we had an issue where trains were stopped and we had school kids that were attempting to cross underneath (the railroad cars), and he wanted to know if that was going on yet.
“I said no… usually, the police are notified and they actually are there to watch that, so he was happy about that,” Grime said.
Archbold has received an apology from NS.
In an email to this newspaper, Rachel McDonnell Bradshaw, manager of media relations for the railroad, said the company is “aware of the concerns in Archbold, Ohio, and is communicating with public officials.
“Norfolk Southern makes every effort to minimize the time that trains interrupt motor vehicle traffic at railroad crossings. At times, operational situations require a train to stop or slow, resulting in a temporarily blocked crossing.
“We apologize for any inconveniences to the community. If a train blocks a crossing for an extended period of time, residents can contact Norfolk Southern police at 800-946-4744. This number is on the emergency notification sign posted at every highway-rail crossing.”
However, Bradshaw did not answer questions about the blockages posed by this newspaper.
Police reports state at about 7:50 am, Saturday, Feb. 20, an officer observed an eastbound train stopped, blocking the crossings at Defiance and Franklin streets.
The train did not begin moving until 3:01 pm, more than seven hours after it was initially spotted.
Police issued the railroad citations for disorderly conduct for blocking the crossings and hindering traffic. One citation was issued for each crossing.
The stated reason on the police report for the Saturday blockage was a crew change.
Police also issued citations for a blockage that started about 8:53 pm, Friday, Feb. 19. The train cleared the crossing sometime between 2:20-2:45 am, Saturday, Feb. 20.
Citations were issued for blocking both crossings, for a total of four citations in about 18 hours.
A number of reports of trains blocking crossings have appeared in the police log recently in this newspaper.
The crossings were blocked for just over two hours on Monday, Feb. 8. Part of that time was during school dismissal.
Jay Selgo, Archbold School District superintendent, said students who normally walk to school were allowed to ride the school buses, which drove out to Co. Rd. 24, around the blocked crossings.
Editor’s Note: The following memo, written by Donna Dettling, Archbold village administrator, summarizes the current situation with trains blocking the Defiance Street Norfolk Southern railroad crossing. It was released Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 22.
To: Mayor Grime and Council
From: Donna Dettling, Village Administrator
Subject: Norfolk Southern “NSCorp” Railroad-Blocked Crossings
Date: February 22, 2021
Saturday, February 20, 2021; the SR66 and Franklin Street at grade railroad crossings were blocked from 7:50 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The reason for this blockage according to a NSCorp Operations Manager was a crew change. Chief Wixom continues to make contact with NSCorp to let them know this is unacceptable. We also continue to process citations; sending them to NSCorp and through the Court. The incidents are reported to PUCO, Catherine Stout at ODOT, Robert Latta’s office & Emily Lammers, Latta’s Aide.
The last time Council and/or the Street Committee formally discussed stopped trains was fall of 2019; when we researched installing advance warning beacons. At that time, we decided to wait and see if the situation would improve. The situation improved through the end of 2019, 2020 up until several recent incidents in 2021.
We’ve discussed on many occasions the uphill battle Archbold faces to achieve the goal of stopping or reducing NSCorp’s practice of parking trains that block crossings. The biggest issue is the “siding track”, which is used regularly by NSCorp when problems arise. NSCorp’s standard practice is to split trains when they need to park on the “siding track” to open up the crossing.
However, NSCorp has admitted problems with being able to split trains that are too long for the “siding track” due to lack of crews or crews running out of time to work. For the incidents so far in 2021; NSCorp continues to blame crew changes as their excuse for parking the train. A 7-hour crew change is completely unreasonable.
Our options are limited; but we will continue to put pressure on NSCorp through citation and reporting as we believe there was improvement last year with this effort. We can revisit the advanced warning beacon system that warns the public of stopped trains and allows them to take alternate routes.
A warning system, however will not reduce the number of times a train blocks a crossing, which is the ultimate goal.
There’s also the possibility that a warning system could bolster NSCorp’s decision to block crossings as NSCorp may argue that the community is helping ease or resolve traffic issues. This could result in an increase rather than decrease in frequency and duration of blocked crossings.
We continue to emphasize concerns with local fire, law enforcement and EMS delayed response as well as safety of school children when crossings are blocked. Reducing the frequency and duration of blocked crossing is the only way to have an impact on these safety concerns, which an advance warning system will not achieve.
Addendum: On February 22, 2021; the Mayor had a conversation with Bob Latta regarding trains blocking crossing. Mr. Latta is upset and he made a commitment to Archbold to get to the bottom of this. Mr. Latta is frustrated that his prior attempts have not been more fruitful. He said he would keep us posted on his conversations.
Addendum: On February 23, 2021; Chief Wixom confirmed through Emily Lammers in Robert Latta’s office that Mr. Latta is meeting with the VP of Network Operations at NSCorp on 2-24-2021.