BNSF says city of Moore has no legal standing in crossing fight


An administrative law judge at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has taken under advisement arguments in the legal fight between Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway and the city of Moore which wants to force the railway to pay the entire cost of constructing an underpass at a heavily trafficked crossing.

Judge Keith Thomas heard two hours of virtual arguments Wednesday morning as the railway argued the city of Moore has no standing in the case because the crossing in question is 4th street which is also State Highway 37.

“The issue is not whether the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has authority–it is Moore not having standing,” argued attorney Dillon Currin.

He contends Moore lacks constitutional authority under state law to make changes to the state highway and force the railway to pay for the entire cost of a grade separation. Currin and BNSF appealed a previous judge’s ruling which went in support of the city of Moore. The railway is asking Judge Thomas to overturn the original ruling.

Derek Burch, an attorney representing Moore argued the railway has been a part of the discussion of solving the issue of the street sometimes blocked by stalled trains.

“We want Burlington Northern to pay 100% of the project,” he told the ALJ and commissioners Todd Hiett and Dana Murphy who listened to the hearing and asked questions but did not vote on the issue. Burch contended the city of Moore has already spent $1 million on engineering preparations for the project.

It was the opinion of Michael Copeland, Deputy General Counsel for the Corporation Commission’s Transportation Division that the city of Moore has standing to make the application with the Commission in an attempt to force BNSF to pay for the project.

“Whether the project is on a state highway or city street is irrelevant,” argued Copeland. “Police cars and fire trucks are blocked and homes might burn down. It is a public safety issue.”

He urged the ALJ to uphold the original decision by Judge Michael Norris.

While Judge Thomas said he would take the issue under advisement, Commissioner Dana Murphy expressed some dismay at why the issue was before the agency.

“I think the parties need to get together. We shouldn’t be involved at this point. They need to get back together to see if they can get something worked out. The situation is troublesome.”