Riverside moves to put train delay penalties on ballot
A Riverside City Council committee on Monday recommended that city voters should be allowed to vote on prohibiting trains from stopping and blocking vehicle traffic.
The recommendation by the Governmental Affairs Committee must still face a vote in the full council.
A spokesmen for the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates railroad crossing safety in the state, told the Riverside Press Enterprise that federal and state laws take precedent over local regulations and already address the issue.
Representatives from railroads Union Pacific and BNSF attended the meetings and expressed a willingness to work with the city to prevent blockages.
The ballot measure, proposed by Councilman Frank Schiavone, would amend Riverside's city charter to bar trains from stopping in a way that blocks street traffic crossings in Riverside. Any violations would slap the railroad companies with a $100,000 fine as well as an additional $10,000-per-minute charge. Current PUC regulations limit trains blocking a traffic crossing for no more than 10 minutes.
A similar law enacted in the mid-1980s by the Contra Costa County city of Pittsburg was eventually struck down in court. The ruling cited the PUC regulations took precedent over locally imposed ordinances.
A major reason for the Riverside ballot measure, according to city officials, is delays of emergency vehicles by stopped trains. Paramedic and ambulances in the city, according to the Press Enterprise, have encountered delays at train crossings in the city 82 times this year for 256 minutes. The city's police cars were delayed 270 times, adding up to more than 22 hours in wait time.