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Railroad regulation overhaul could prevent traffic issues

Staff Report • Mar 7, 2013 at 8:25 AM

There is a saying, “You can’t fight City Hall,” which is not entirely true. Those in the right have been known to triumph over red tape and bureaucracy. Perhaps a more accurate saying would be: “You can’t fight the railroad.”

That certainly describes Johnson City’s recent experiences with Norfolk Southern. As we reported in Tuesday’s paper, work on railroad crossings at some heavily traveled intersections in the downtown area have created nightmares for city transit buses and other motorists traveling through the area.

Norfolk Southern did give the city some notice of the work (about three days before), which is something the railroad hasn’t always done in the past. But there has been no coordination between the city and the railroad in trying to alleviate problems caused by the work.

You might say Norfolk Southern has been a bit rude, and you’d be right. But it’s not entirely the railroad’s fault.

As we’ve said in this space before, some of the blame for this attitude is rooted in the federal regulation and oversight of the railroad industry that dates back to the 19th century. State governments have little say in the operation of rail companies and local governments have virtually none.

We think it’s time for a complete federal review of railroad regulations, which have not seen a major overhaul in many decades.

We are not asking that railways be made answerable to local governments. We are asking, however, that rail companies be courteous enough to try to avoid the traffic headaches like those seen in downtown Johnson City this week.

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