Buses and railroad crossings

Buses are required by law to stop at railroad crossings (except where exempted, such as the light rail tracks on University Avenue in the Twin Cities). This is for safety reasons, the law was implemented in Utah for school buses after a terrible accident. The Deseret News reports:

DeVon Andrus of Cedar City wrote, “I endorse everything said about the safety on school buses. However, there are a few of us who remember a day in December 1938 when the worst school bus accident in the history of the United States occurred in Sandy, Utah. As a result of this accident, laws were passed in every state regulating bus travel when crossing railroad tracks. … Bus drivers were required to stop and open the door, look both ways and listen before crossing the tracks. …”

I know “safety first” and laws like this help keep us all alive, but sometimes they are applied too much.

Railroad Crossing at Franklin Avenue SE
Railroad Crossing at Franklin Avenue SE

There is a railroad crossing on Franklin Avenue in SE Minneapolis which is part of a spur, which used to have very few trains, and now has approximately none since the building it served (Bemis Products) is being converted housing (Brickhouse Lofts). Yet the tracks have not been removed, since the railroad (I suppose) might want to use the spur as a siding to store railcars sometimes.

Dozens of times each day school buses and Metro Transit buses and Metro Mobility buses decelerate, stop, look for non-existent trains, and accelerate again. This wastes time and energy, increases the wear and tear on vehicles, and pollutes the environment (with associated public health effects that probably exceed the safety benefits in these cases).

Is there a way to either (a) get railroads to pull up their unused track and abandon the right-of-way in a more timely fashion, (b) exempt more low volume tracks from the stopping requirement? [Clearly "exempt" signs are allowed, they just don't seem to be implemented as widely as they might be.]

One thought on “Buses and railroad crossings”

  1. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=169.28

    Subd. 2.Exempt crossing. (a) The commissioner may designate a crossing as an exempt crossing:
    (1) if the crossing is on a rail line on which service has been abandoned;
    (2) if the crossing is on a rail line that carries fewer than five trains each year, traveling at speeds of ten miles per hour or less; or
    (3) as agreed to by the operating railroad and the Department of Transportation, following a diagnostic review of the crossing.
    (b) The commissioner shall direct the railroad to erect at the crossing signs bearing the word “Exempt” that conform to section 169.06. The installation or presence of an exempt sign does not relieve a driver of the duty to use due care. A train must not proceed across an exempt crossing unless a police officer is present to direct traffic or a railroad employee is on the ground to warn traffic until the train enters the crossing.

    Also (in Subd. 1) “The driver must not shift gears while crossing the railroad tracks.”

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