The transportation of agricultural and forestry inputs and commodities produced is dependent upon efficient and continued railroad service. Mergers with the industry and low priority designations by railroad management have created an unstable and, in some areas, unreliable rail service.
Farm Bureau should work with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the U.S. Department of Transportation and Congress to ensure future investment and expansion of commodity and passenger rail infrastructures in Michigan and throughout the United States.
We encourage the continuance of rail service in Michigan. Therefore, we support:
- Urging the responsible authorities to improve and maintain railroad crossings to current code, including replacing existing railroad cross buck signs with cross buck signs that are reflectorized on both sides, and requiring stop signs or warning lights to replace yield signs where visibility is limited.
- Legislation to require railroads to use reflectors or reflectorized paint or tape on the sides of rail cars to improve visibility. In addition, we support the use of strobe and ditch lights on railroad engines and the last car.
- Public notice and hearing process for Michigan highway projects should be used when changes in Michigan railroads are proposed to ensure the viewpoints of all affected parties are considered.
- Acceptable rail crossing alternatives be developed and railroad crossing upgrades be completed in a timely manner if existing crossings are required to be closed.
- Exempting private agriculture crossings from closure and treated as nonresidential seasonal agriculture use.
- The requesting party be responsible to pay for safety mechanisms at a private crossing if they are determined necessary.
- Fencing along the rail corridor should be erected and paid for by the railroad when railroads bisect a fenced parcel of land.
- Railway companies be responsible to keep the railroad right-of-way free of brush for a reasonable distance at road crossings.
The changing of a railroad right-of-way from its intended use should result in compensation to property owners whose land had been originally purchased or condemned for the purpose of the railroad right-of-way. All unused railroad rights-of-way not preserved for future railroad traffic should be reverted to, or offered for sale at or below fair market value, to the current owner of record of the underlying parcel of real estate from which said right-of-way was originally obtained. Whenever determined not possible, landowners shall be compensated for the condemnation of the land or a change to a non-railroad use.
MDOT, who controls the abandoned railroads, should allow the adjacent property owner to clear and remove the railroad bed to return it to agricultural production.
We propose a state standard be developed by MDOT requiring removal of non-service or abandoned grade crossing signage within a set time period after public notification of rail line non-service or abandonment.
We support allowing horses on converted railroad trails.