Monday Breakdown: School buses stop at 'all' railroad crossings

December 09, 2012
  • A Washington County school bus stops at a railroad crossing with an "exempt" sign on Frederick Street in Hagerstown last week.
Photo by Andrew Schotz

Last week in “Monday Breakdown,” we quoted a AAA Digest of Motor Laws website about when school buses must stop at railroad crossings.

After reading that, Hagerstown Police Officer Timothy Rossiter sent us an email.

“Buses in the Hagerstown area stop at all railroad crossings, including several that have not been used in decades ...,” Rossiter wrote. “There are signs up at these intersections stating the crossings are ‘EXEMPT’ which I would think would mean they are not treated as an ‘in use’ crossing. Since the buses apparently have to stop at all track crossings even if they have trees growing through them on the side of the road, why aren’t these crossings either dug up or paved over.”

In November 2010, Barbara Scotto, Washington County Public Schools’ transportation supervisor, told The Herald-Mail that, by law, buses may not cross visible tracks without stopping, regardless of “exempt” signs.

In an email last week, City Engineer Rodney Tissue wrote: “These are signs that inform drivers ... that a stop is not required at certain designated grade crossings. In 2005, CSX notified the City that the spur line with crossings at Wilson, Oak Street, First Avenue, Frederick Street, and Eastern Boulevard were all ‘out-of-service’ and the exemptions would be appropriate. We have since been informed, as you indicate in your email, that regardless of the ‘exempt’ placard (and the direction from CSX), in Maryland the vehicles still must stop.”

Referring to Maryland law, Joseph Kroboth III, Washington County’s public works director, wrote in a separate email: “‘Exempt’ at railroads crossings is not to be used.”

Tissue continued: “In this case, CSX has a spur that crosses East Wilson Blvd and heads northeast across Frederick Street toward the former First Urban Fiber plant (near the baseball stadium). It has been unused for about 15 years. About two years ago, we found a recorded quit claim deed between CSX and property owners south of Wilson. It seems like CSX no longer has a right to run trains through those properties.

“Over the last two years, we have on several occasions written to CSX on this matter and we have received nothing to-date. Our goal is to obtain their permission and concurrence to completely remove the crossings and possibly do something positive with the short piece of abandoned rail between Frederick and Wilson if the community so desires. Nothing can happen until CSX indicates their intentions.”

On Wednesday, CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said he’d look into the question. On Friday afternoon, though, he said he still didn’t have any answers.

Stay tuned.

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