Councilwoman urges railroad to cut down on wait times
For Councilwoman Carolyn Schexnaydre, the derailment of eight Canadian National train cars in Destrehan in late October was the final straw for the railroad company.
Schexnaydre plans to introduce a resolution that will attempt to get the railroad’s attention about the extremely long delays she says her constituents are continuously facing.
Schexnaydre said that she has heard numerous complaints from people who wait for up to 20 minutes or more at the Ormond track. In fact, Schexnaydre said she recently timed her stop and counted off 24 minutes before the train cleared and traffic was allowed to pass through.
“I have sent letters, other council members have sent letters and we never hear anything back,” she said. “It’s like these complaints are falling on deaf ears. Anytime we request anything from Canadian National, such as a recent request to get the crossing changed, they never get back with us.”
Schexnaydre said that the delays often take place in the afternoons between 4-5 p.m., which further frustrates drivers.
“At that time we have a lot of people heading home with school children or even coming home from work,” she said. “It’s not right that they have to wait for that long for a train to clear.”
Schexnaydre added that the delays can also hamper emergency responders.
Parish law says that a railroad crossing may only be blocked for a period of five minutes, but Sheriff Greg Champagne has said that he believes that the parish law is unconstitutional.
“The United States Supreme Court has issued rulings that prevent state and local governments from passing statutes which regulate railroads since they come under the ‘commerce clause’ of the United States Constitution,” he said. “The court has ruled that railroads and their movement do constitute interstate commerce under the constitution.
“We have a parish ordinance prohibiting a railroad from blocking a crossing for more than five minutes, however I am convinced that the ordinance is unconstitutional as per the ruling I referred too.”
One of the reasons for the long blockages is that there is a switch off or holding track in Destrehan. The switch offs are located several miles apart and trains must take them and stop while allowing an oncoming train through.
Champagne said that his office tries to keep communications open with the railroads, and has not issued any citations since he was made aware of the Supreme Court ruling.
But Schexnaydre believes that now is the perfect time to send a resolution to Canadian National.
“Maybe the recent derailment opened their eyes to the problems here,” she said.
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