BNSF railway files suit over new state law in Oklahoma

BNSF Railway has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City against the cities of Edmond and Davis and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission over a new state law allowing for fines against railroad companies for blocking streets and roads.

BNSF’s lawsuit results from citations written by Edmond and Davis police to the Fort Worth-based railroad over trains stopped on the tracks and blocking crossings, said Steve Murdock, city of Edmond attorney in an interview with the Edmond Sun.

“They’re asking the federal court to make a determination as to the constitutionality of the new state law that was passed and went into effect on July 1.”

The suit was filed Aug. 22 and summons were  served a day later. The case is listed as 19 CV-00769 in the Western District of the U.S. Courts in Oklahoma City.

The new law allows for $1,000 fines if a stopped train blocks a road for more than 10 minutes. The law does allow for several exemptions reported the Sun.

Edmond Police Department officers wrote BNSF citations on May 29 and July 17. A BNSF train had been stopped on the tracks at 1st and Colcord for more than 20 minutes, Murdock said.

The city of Edmond filed the citations through Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Murdock said the city’s response will be based on the constitutionality of the state statute.

The new law allows municipalities to fine railroad companies up to $1,000 for blocking crossings. The lawsuit filed by BNSF explained the fines proposed by the city of Edmond totaled $2,000.

The lawsuit was filed against the city of Davis in southern Oklahoma following a citation that had been issued July 16 when a BNSF train blocked a street crossing “in excess of 20 minutes.”


Similar laws in Kansas and Texas have been overturned in recent years, citing the fact railroad companies are engaged in interstate commerce and, as such, can only be regulated by federal law.