When Trains Block a Road, Local Officials Have Few Options

The federal government is spending billions of dollars on bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure to route traffic over, under and around railroads tracks. But to many residents and local officials, that is an imperfect way to alleviate congestion on roads that are frequently blocked by freight trains.

To take advantage of the federal money, communities must find a way to cover a share of the cost of expensive upgrades. In addition, it can be difficult or impossible to build bridges and tunnels.

Some towns and cities have successfully worked with railroads to reschedule operations or move tracks away from busy roads. But many local officials complain that railroads are often unwilling to help, leaving communities with few options.

“Everybody loves trains and we appreciate the economic benefit of it, but we’re tired of being held hostage,” said Brad Rogers, a member of the Elkhart County Commission in Indiana.