BLANCHESTER — Blanchester police filed a complaint Monday against the Indiana & Ohio Railway Corporation after a train blocked all four grade crossings in town for more than an hour on Sunday.
The charge is obstruction of roads by railroads, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Police Chief Scott Rinbolt said that at around 2:30 p.m. Sunday an eastbound Indiana & Ohio freight train blocked all four grade crossings, separating the north and south sides of town. According to railroad personnel on the train, one of the three locomotives on the train broke down, stalling the train in place.
“In addition to being a serious inconvenience to the motoring public, this situation negatively impacted public safety,” said Police Chief Scott Reinbolt. “Emergency ambulance service in Blanchester and Marion Township is provided by Blanchester Emergency Medical Service Inc., whose only station is located on the north end of town. Fire protection in Blanchester is provided by the Blanchester-Marion Twp. Fire District. While the fire district has stations on both sides of the railroad tracks, fire personnel would have been prevented from moving from one end of town to the other had there been a fire in town.”
Reinbolt said that Ohio law prohibits a railroad from blocking a grade crossing for more than five minutes, unless the blockage is created by some factor outside of the control of the railroad.
”I am willing to concede that the breakdown of a locomotive is an unusual occurrence, and understand that such a situation could result in a blockage of more than five minutes, but the tracks were blocked for at least 90 minutes in this instance,” he said.
“In addition, a police officer spoke with the train crew, who seemed obtuse to the problem they were causing, and who could provide no estimate of when repairs would be made or a plan for alleviating the obstruction,” Reinbolt added. “I’m a bit confounded by a multi-million dollar company apparently having no contingency plan for such a situation.”
Finally, at around 4 p.m. “an officer threatened the train crew with arrest if they did not move the train, and within 10 minutes the locomotive was limped forward to open the streets behind,” said Reinbolt.
“It is my hope that this filing will alert corporate management to the seriousness of such a situation and encourage them to institute contingency plans that will make certain this does not occur again.”