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Indiana Bill Would Change Determination Methods for Grade Crossing Sight Distance

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Indianapolis, Indiana – January 16, 2013)

A bill which would drastically change the methodology the Indiana Dept. of Transportation uses to determine what distance of clear view a motorist needs in order to see oncoming trains is rapidly moving toward becoming law in the Hoosier State after it cleared the Indiana House of Representatives Wednesday.

Current Indiana state law sets the distance at an arbitrary 1,500 feet of unobstructed view for drivers to be able to see down the tracks in either direction. But a bill introduced by Valparaiso, IN Republican representative Ed Soliday, and passed, would allegedly “allow INDOT to use scientific methods to designate the clear-line sight of view,” according to the bill’s author.

“Whether the same distance is needed for the same railroad is something people who do this for a living should be doing,” said Soliday, who added that the methodology would now include factors such as maximum allowable train speed and surrounding environment as criteria for INDOT’s evaluatory process.

The bill contains an amendment that retains current civil penalties against railroads in place, setting fines of $100 a day and $5,000 maximum for violation of the clear sight distance. Another proposed amendment, which would have established a minimum 250 foot sight distance at any crossing, was voted down as Soliday said that establishing a minimum “would not be appropriate.” According to Soliday, setting a minimum distance would “presuppose to INDOT that we (the legislature) have some knowledge that that’s the right number. The spirit of the bill is to let the technical people come up with the numbers,” he explained.


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