Court: Oklahoma rail crossing law violates federal authority

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court has found that Oklahoma’s law creating a 10-minute limit on trains blocking city streets violates the federal government’s authority.

“Exclusive jurisdiction over transportation by rail carriers and the operation of tracks or facilities, including side tracks” rests with the federal Surface Transportation Board under the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The decision upholds a 2020 ruling by a federal judge in Oklahoma that the law was unconstitutional.

BNSF Railway Co. filed suit after police in Edmond and Davis cited the company for violating the law, passed in 2019.

The state argued that the law was allowed under the Federal Railroad Safety Act because it addressed a public safety issue as the stopped trains had previously blocked emergency responders such as paramedics and firefighters.

The appeals court acknowledged that trains blocking emergency responders create legitimate safety issues, but found that the FRSA applies to rail safety, not public safety.