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PSC looking at Enderlin ordinance to stop trains from blcoking crossings

The Public Service Commission is closely watching a lawsuit brought by CP Rail against the city of Enderlin over its ordinance to prevent trains from blocking crossings.

The ordinance says the railroad can’t block a crossing for more than 10 minutes. It says railroad employees who violate the ordinance would have to serve a mandatory two days in jail and pay a $500 fine. In addition, CP could face civil damages.

CP says the ordinance is unconstitutional.

Commissioners say they're sympathetic towards Enderlin.

"What the railroads are doing in some of these little towns is just getting out of hand, I think," said Commissioner Randy Christmann.

The PSC is looking at how this case might impact state railroad regulation.

"If the judge determines that Enderlin had no Constitutional authority, then it's very likely the state doesn't," said PSC legal counsel Ilona Jeffcoat-Sacco. "Enderlin's authority comes from the state."

Commission chairman Brian Kalk says he worries that this could put the PSC’s jurisdiction over the railroads in jeopardy.

"if the judge comes out and affirms that the law in place is valid, then great," said Kalk. "If it comes out, and there's a tweak to it, I think we need to get a bill together to tweak the law to keep the authority in a different venue."

The PSC is now waiting for the Enderlin city attorney to send a copy of the ordinance and the legal filings.

The city of Karlsruhe is also having problems. City leaders there complain the BNSF has been blocking crossings for up to an hour.