- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

DUNLAP, Ind. (AP) - A northern Indiana sheriff’s department has issued dozens of traffic tickets to Norfolk Southern so far this month over stopped freight trains blocking traffic at rail crossings.

Officials and residents say the trains are often stopped for a couple hours or more on the rail line that runs along U.S. 33 through the Elkhart County town of Dunlap.

County officers had issued nearly 60 tickets with possible $500 fines against the railroad as of Wednesday since Oct. 1, The Goshen News and The Elkhart Truth reported. The tickets are for violation of a state law prohibiting trains from blocking a crossing for no more than 10 minutes, with each 10 minutes after that an additional violation.

Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers said the stopped trains can delay emergency crews and have led to reports of some students climbing through the trains to reach nearby Concord High School and Concord Intermediate School.

“It also impacts people who live on each side of the track,” he said. “People cannot be held prisoner on each side of the track.”

Norfolk Southern officials attribute some of the delays to an increase in the number of trains through the corridor between Chicago and Cleveland along with long work shifts for train crews.

“By law, train crews can only work so long and then they must stop and we have to get another crew to the area,” railroad spokesman Dave Pidgeon said.

Stopped Norfolk Southern trains are also causing troubles around the St. Joseph County community of Lydick a couple miles west of South Bend, WNDU-TV reported.

“I would say in the last two weeks we’ve had at least one train stopped every day and its usually for long periods of time,” resident Cindy Thrasher said. “It’s not 5 or 10 minutes it’s an hour or two hours. It’s ridiculous.”

Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder told WSBT-TV it is becoming difficult to keep asking residents to be patient.

“We’re doing everything we can,” he said. “We’re writing tickets. We can’t tow the trains.”

Laura Anglemyer said she’s become frustrated by long delays in trying to get around the Dunlap area.

“I love the trains, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “They’re good for the economy. But keep them moving on the tracks. Quit stopping.”

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