Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
Blocked railroad crossings can be frustrating and inconvenient for drivers. In recent years, increased rail operations and public perception have made this a more significant issue across the country. State agencies have raised these concerns with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
To understand the magnitude of the situation, the FRA has established an online system that allows the public to report blocked crossings. This will also allow the federal government and states to determine the extent of the problem. Follow the link below to report a blocked crossing. Continue reading for more information regarding the complexity of the issue.
To report a blocked crossing, select the link below and complete the form:
WASHINGTON STATE BLOCKED CROSSING INFORMATION
WAC 480-62-220 - Blockage of public grade crossings (please read all information below).
(1) Railroad companies must not block a grade crossing for more than ten consecutive minutes, if reasonably possible.
(2) A blocked grade crossing must be cleared immediately by the fastest available method, if the train movement will not violate rules issued by the Federal Railroad Administration, upon the request of law enforcement or other emergency services personnel, or when the engineer becomes aware that the crossing is being approached by a law enforcement or other emergency services vehicle with its emergency lights flashing or that such a vehicle is stopped with its emergency lights flashing at the crossing blocked by the train.
(3) A grade crossing is "blocked" if any part of a stopped train occupies the crossing or causes warning devices to be activated.
This regulation is unenforceable due to several federal court rulings. This is a national problem and states are strongly requesting that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) develop regulations to address the issue. The FRA is the only government agency that could consider creating rules to address blocked crossings. Until federal rules are developed, UTC staff will forward blocked crossing complaints to the FRA for all crossings in Washington state and will work with railroads where there is an imminent safety hazard resulting from a blocked crossing.
NOTE: A crossing is not considered 'blocked' until a train has not moved for ten minutes. Railroad operating rules state a crossing should not be blocked for over ten minutes. However, if the train moves at all, the ten minutes starts over. Sometimes blockages are unavoidable due to track circumstances, accidents or other environmental or operating issues.