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Atlanta city council wants action on blocked grade crossings

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(The Center Square) — An Atlanta City Council committee has passed a measure to advocate for punishing railroads that block grade crossings for prolonged periods, the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between railroads and communities nationwide.

The Atlanta measure calls on the Georgia General Assembly and Congress to pass legislation limiting how long freight trains can block a grade crossing.

It recommends penalties of $1,000 for the first offense, $3,000 for the second violation and $5,000 for the third infraction. The penalties for each violation would result from blocking road crossings for more than 15 minutes.

The full city council will consider the measure during its Aug. 7 meeting. Atlanta City Council Post 3 At-Large Council member Keisha Sean Waites called the passage “a positive step forward.”

“When trains are stalled on our roads, we see disruptions and delays in traffic and increased frustration for drivers and pedestrians. It can limit visibility, create confusion, and increase safety concerns, including causing more traffic accidents,” Waites said in a statement.

Data shows Georgia is among the worst states for grade crossing crashes.

In May, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, reiterated his call for federal railroad authorities to take blocked railroad crossings more seriously. However, a Federal Railroad Administration official disputed Ossoff’s characterization that the agency wasn’t paying enough attention to collecting citizen reports and understanding the locations of problem crossings.

Spokespeople for Ossoff and several Georgia lawmakers did not respond to a request for comment on the Atlanta measure.

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