NEW RAILROAD SIGNALS are said to be at least partially to blame for recent vehicle traffic blockages by trains in the city of Durand. While Canadian National owns the rail yard adjacent to Durand Union Station, lines are leased to Genesee and Wyoming, Inc., and Huron and Eastern Railway. All three entities will be a part of upcoming negotiations with the city of Durand, as the city attempts to solve the issue of the “dangling trains.”
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Durand City Council read, for the first time on Monday, July 17, an ordinance that would make it illegal for trains to obstruct vehicular traffic for more than five minutes at a time. The ordinance will be given a second reading during either the council’s August or September meeting. Each infraction of the new ordinance would be a misdemeanor and would carry a fine of not more than $500.
The ordinance does come with exceptions, however. The ordinance would not be enforced if said train is in motion; if the railroad company or its personnel can show that the incident occurred as a result of a verifiable accident, mechanical failure, or unsafe conditions; if the railroad company or its personnel can show that compliance with the ordinance would require the railroad company to modify the length of its trains or train speeds as regulated by federal statute; if the railroad company or its personnel can show that compliance with the ordinance would restrict its performance of federally mandated air brake tests; or if the railroad company or its personnel can show that compliance with the ordinance will cause the railroad or its employees to violate any federal regulation.
The new ordinance is part of the city council’s ongoing effort to rectify the issue of trains routinely blocking intersections for long periods, without any apparent reason. The Durand Police Department recently conducted a study showing how often trains delayed motorists for extended periods, with several instances documented of trains dangling into intersections for upwards of one hour at a time. And while the city of Durand has dealt with extended blockages due to trains throughout its history, these unnecessary blockages are a detriment to the “health, safety, and welfare” of the citizens of Durand, in the words of Dr. Boggs.
The ordinance is accompanying the negotiation efforts of council members Dr. Brian Boggs and John Matejewski, Durand Police Chief Jason Hartz, and Michigan’s 85th District Rep. Ben Frederick, who all met with Canadian National representatives in July to try to find a solution to the growing problem. The meeting was productive, by all accounts, and another meeting is planned in the near future that will include representatives from Genesee and Wyoming, Inc., and Huron and Eastern Railway. Both Dr. Boggs and Rep. Frederick report that, while railroad officials were initially hesitant to make any concessions, the negations seem to be “on the right track.”
Both men have expressed their desire to see the city come to an amicable agreement with the railroads, and Durand City Manager Colleen O’Toole is also hoping an agreement can be reached. “It is important for the city to establish a healthy relationship with the railroads, especially since rail traffic will probably continue to grow in the future.”