“Huge step forward” for Hall County in battle over trains blocking crossings

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 9:29 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) announced Tuesday they would lift their formal complaint against two out of the three railroad companies accused of blocking crossings in Hall County.

According to a press release from the PSC, the Union Pacific Railroad Company and Nebraska Central Railroad Company “have agreed on a plan as to how they will handle their trains so they are not blocking crossings”.

“Once we became aware that there was an issue there, we immediately notified Union Pacific Operating team and got our head together to overcome obstacles that we needed to to keep the trains moving safely and efficiently but also preventing those crossings from being blocked,” said Tres Meyer, the Senior VP of Operations for the Rio Grand Pacific Corporation.

While Hall County residents said this has been an ongoing problem for years, Meyers said neither company knew there was an issue until a hearing with the PSC earlier this year.

“We are committed to this. For any of our train crews we have special instructions out there if they do have to stop for whatever reason that they contact us immediately, notify us what happened and why they’re stopped so we can get the message out to the local community and let them know what happened.”

“This is a huge step forward. Hall County has had these issues for a very long time,” Hall County Chair Pamela Lancaster said. “People say that you cannot win against in the railroad. It’s not a matter of winning or losing, it’s a matter of what is safest for our community.”

This may be a step forward, but the problem is far from over. The third company with a complaint against them is Burlington Northern Santa Fe and they have not made any changes yet.

“There is still a concern along Highway 2,” Lancaster said. “They are blocking passways across their tracks and they need to continue to have negotiations. The complaint stays in tact with the Public Service Commission. They’re looking to make that change.”

Despite the years long fight for change, Lancaster is not ready to give up yet. She said she believes the needed changes will come soon.

“I have full confidence that we will get the issue along Highway 2 resolved to a better satisfaction to the people but for now it’s still being worked on,” Lancaster said. “The hope is that the other two rail lines have lead the way and therefore Burlington will follow suite. In the meantime, the service commission is the big dog. They are the people who will have to manage this for us.”

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