Council: Train wait time way too long

December 17, 2010 at 11:57 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The Parish Council will send a letter to all railroad companies that operate in the parish and ask them to cut down on wait times, which some say can last longer than 20 minutes.

Councilwoman Carolyn Schexnaydre authored the letter, which was approved by a majority of the council. Schexnaydre said that she has heard numerous complaints from people who wait up to 20 minutes or more at the Ormond track. Schexnaydre said she recently timed her stop and counted off 24 minutes before the train cleared and traffic was allowed to pass through.

But the issue doesn’t just occur on the East Bank. Another problem crossing has been Barton Avenue, which is already backed up with traffic several times a day. Train delays just add to the problem.

“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.”

Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said that his office has called railroad companies four or five times this year about the long wait times and that he always hears the same response.

“They say they will do the best they can,” he said.

Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto said that she has been told by some railroad representatives that there is nothing they can do to alleviate the problem. Benedetto said that the railroads need to hear from emergency responders about the issue and how it could affect their response times.

Schexnaydre has already been given information from EOC regarding crossings that have the most resident complaints and has attached a copy to the letter.

“Then they can see where the problems are,” she said.

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 both Destrehan and Luling. The switch offs are located several miles apart and trains must take them and stop while allowing an oncoming train to pass through.

Champagne said that his office tries to keep communication open with the railroads, but that his office has not issued any citations to railroad companies since he was made aware of the Supreme Court ruling.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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