SPENCER TOWNSHIP, Ohio– Freight trains routinely block the main intersection in one Northeast Ohio community by coming to a complete stop, leaving the town divided sometimes for more than an hour, the FOX 8 I-Team found.
Spencer Township leaders said it happens so often for so long, it could keep police, firefighters and ambulance crews from getting to critical emergency scenes.
Cell phone video obtained by the I-Team shows trains creep across the intersection of highways 301 and 162 in Spencer. The trains then stop moving or they move a little. That’s leaves the town crossroads blocked for several minutes. It seems like forever to some drivers.
Spencer Twp.Trustee Jeff Wallace said, “This goes on every day. Could be in the evening. Could be in the morning,” “Could be five minutes. Could be an hour and five minutes,” said Gary Flegel, another trustee.
Spencer Police Sgt. Douglas Shepherd said he’s even had to wait after being dispatched to calls.
Many in the area said the problem goes back decades. But Wallace is making a new push to get something done about it. He’s calling on the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway Company to meet with local leaders and find a way to limit what’s been happening.
“They send their locomotives down the track and they block this road until they hook up the other rail cars. And in the meantime, these roads are still blocked,” Wallace said.
Wallace and other officials in and around Spencer said the company has largely ignored concerns and complaints.
So, the I-Team went to the Wheeling and Lake Erie headquarters. First, we were told no top managers were around. A little later, we went back and a woman told us to leave the property.
Ohio law said a train can’t be stopped and blocking an intersection for more than 5 minutes. The penalty is a $1,000 fine. The Federal Railroad Administration said there is no federal law dealing with this.
Parents said even kids get delayed on buses to and from school. But the overriding concern is emergency crews getting held up going to calls or even getting to their station to try to handle calls.
“If they’re on the other side of the tracks and they can’t get through with the train, they can’t even get in to me,” said Kelly Barrett, emergency medical technician.
Wallace is considering a petition and other options to get the rail company to make some changes.
For now, the sound of the train whistle is an alarm warning there could be a long delay.