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  • Writer's pictureSCGJA

Caution, Slow Trains

The 2001/02 Shasta County Grand Jury produced a one page report titled “Railroad Operations in Shasta County” (refer to page 68[1]) outlining what authority, if any, local government agencies have over railroad operations in the County. In 1965, the City of Redding passed an ordinance (originally codified as City of Redding Municipal Code §19-33.1, now 11.36.010) restricting railroad engines or trains to a top speed of 45 mph inside Redding City limits. The Grand Jury wanted to determine if this ordinance was “enforceable.”

The Grand Jury requested a legal opinion from the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office, interviewed a Union Pacific Railroad representative, and reviewed the ordinances and Code of Federal Regulations. The Grand Jury found the federal government was responsible for determining the maximum speeds allowed on train tracks, which were determined by the Class of the track. The train tracks in Redding city limits were labeled Class 4, which meant speeds could not exceed 60 mph for freight trains and 80 mph for passenger trains. Based on the information discovered, the Grand Jury found the speed limit ordinance was not enforceable, as local ordinances are superseded by federal regulations. Further, the Union Pacific Railroad had already established a company policy that restricted train speed to 45 mph through the downtown Redding area.

As a result, it was recommended that the City of Redding consider repealing the ordinance. On July 16, 2002, the Redding City Council reviewed the report at their regular meeting. The Council directed the Redding City Attorney to repeal the City ordinance; the minutes from that meeting are as follows:

“It was the consensus of the City Council that a letter be sent thanking the Grand Jury for their efforts; that the City Attorney be directed to repeal the City ordinance limiting trains to 45 miles per hour; and that the Redding Police Department brochure reference the Shasta County Grand Jury as an alternate means of recourse for commendations or complaints.”[2]

Despite this direction, evidence suggests that the ordinance has never been fully repealed. The ordinance was not discussed in any further City Council meetings in 2002. The City Council’s Policy Manual page[3] on the City’s website does not appear to list all of the City’s Municipal Code sections. Finally, a search of the City of Redding Municipal Code[4], current as of April 23, 2018, shows Code 11.36.010 on the books.

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