Florida Senate - 2019                                     SB 608
       By Senator Bean
       4-00981A-19                                            2019608__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to railroad-highway grade crossings;
    3         amending s. 351.03, F.S.; prohibiting a railroad train
    4         from blocking a public highway, street, or road at a
    5         railroad-highway grade crossing for more than a
    6         specified time; providing exceptions; providing civil
    7         penalties; exempting certain persons from liability
    8         for violations under certain circumstances; providing
    9         construction; providing an effective date.
   11  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   13         Section 1. Section 351.03, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   14  read:
   15         351.03 Railroad-highway grade-crossing warning signs and
   16  signals; audible warnings; exercise of reasonable care; blocking
   17  highways, roads, and streets during darkness.—
   18         (1) Every railroad company shall exercise reasonable care
   19  for the safety of motorists whenever its track crosses a highway
   20  and shall be responsible for erecting and maintaining crossbuck
   21  grade-crossing warning signs in accordance with the uniform
   22  system of traffic control devices adopted pursuant to s.
   23  316.0745. Such crossbuck signs shall be erected and maintained
   24  at all public or private railroad-highway grade crossings.
   25         (2) Advance railroad warning signs and pavement markings
   26  shall be installed and maintained at public railroad-highway
   27  grade crossings in accordance with the uniform system of traffic
   28  control devices by the governmental entity having jurisdiction
   29  over or maintenance responsibility for the highway or street.
   30  All persons approaching a railroad-highway grade crossing shall
   31  exercise reasonable care for their own safety and for the safety
   32  of railroad train crews as well as for the safety of train or
   33  vehicle passengers.
   34         (3) Except as provided in subsection (4), any railroad
   35  train approaching within 1,500 feet of a public railroad-highway
   36  grade crossing shall emit a signal audible for such distance.
   37         (4)(a) The Department of Transportation and the Federal
   38  Railroad Administration may authorize a municipality or county
   39  to implement a whistle ban provided the following conditions are
   40  met:
   41         1. A traffic operations system is implemented to secure
   42  railroad-highway grade crossings for the purpose of preventing
   43  vehicles from going around, under, or through lowered railroad
   44  gates.
   45         2. The municipality or county has in effect an ordinance
   46  that unconditionally prohibits the sounding of railroad train
   47  horns and whistles during the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at all
   48  public railroad-highway grade crossings within the municipality
   49  or county and where the municipality, county, or state has
   50  erected signs at the crossing announcing that railroad train
   51  horns and whistles may not be sounded during such hours. Signs
   52  so erected shall be in conformance with the uniform system of
   53  traffic control devices as specified in s. 316.0745.
   54         (b) Upon final approval and verification by the department
   55  and the Federal Railroad Administration that such traffic
   56  operations system meets all state and federal safety and traffic
   57  regulations and that such railroad-highway grade crossings can
   58  be secured, the municipality or county may pass an ordinance
   59  prohibiting the sounding of audible warning devices by trains
   60  upon approaching such railroad-highway grade crossings between
   61  the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
   62         (c) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to
   63  nullify the liability provisions of s. 768.28.
   64         (5)(a) Whenever a railroad train engages in a switching
   65  operation or stops so as to block a public highway, street, or
   66  road at any time from one-half hour after sunset to one-half
   67  hour before sunrise, the crew of the railroad train shall cause
   68  to be placed a lighted fusee or other visual warning device in
   69  both directions from the railroad train upon or at the edge of
   70  the pavement of the highway, street, or road to warn approaching
   71  motorists of the railroad train blocking the highway, street, or
   72  road. However, this subsection does not apply to railroad
   73  highway grade crossings at which there are automatic warning
   74  devices properly functioning or at which there is adequate
   75  lighting.
   76         (b) A person who violates any provision of paragraph (a) is
   77  guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as
   78  provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
   79         (6)(a)A railroad train that has come to a complete stop
   80  and is blocking a public highway, street, or road at a railroad
   81  highway grade crossing may not remain stopped for more than 15
   82  minutes unless such stoppage is due to a safety-related
   83  emergency or a mechanical failure that renders movement of the
   84  train impossible.
   85         (b)A law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10,
   86  shall issue a citation to the owner or operator of a railroad
   87  train that violates paragraph (a). The owner or operator is
   88  subject to the following fines, payable to the clerk of court:
   89         1.If the crossing is blocked for more than 15 minutes but
   90  less than 20 minutes, $200.
   91         2.If the crossing is blocked for 20 minutes or more but
   92  less than 30 minutes, $300.
   93         3.If the crossing is blocked for 30 minutes or more but
   94  less than 1 hour, $600.
   95         4.If the crossing is blocked for 1 hour, $1,200, plus
   96  $1,000 for each additional 15 minutes after the first hour.
   97         (c)A person who is a member of a railroad train crew, yard
   98  crew, or engine crew may not be held personally liable for the
   99  violation of any state law or municipal or county ordinance that
  100  regulates or intends to regulate the occupying or blocking of a
  101  public highway, street, or road at a railroad-highway grade
  102  crossing by a railroad train, whether passenger or freight, upon
  103  reasonable proof that the person’s action was necessary due to
  104  circumstances beyond his or her control or in order to comply
  105  with written or verbal orders or instructions from his or her
  106  employer or employer’s agent. This paragraph does not relieve
  107  the employer or railroad company of any responsibility of the
  108  employer or railroad company pursuant to such state law or
  109  municipal or county ordinance.
  110         Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2019.