ST PAUL, Minn. — State Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) has introduced a bill to close a legal loophole that currently exempts light rain trains from state traffic laws.
The action comes less than a week after a KARE 11 investigation exposed how the operator of a light rail train was able to avoid criminal charges after a fatal accident – even though evidence showed he disobeyed a signal to stop.
Video from the July 2017 accident shows a Green Line train ignored stop signals and broadsided a car at a St. Paul intersection. Well-known Twin Cities ballroom dancer Nic Westlake was killed and his dancing partner Neli Petkova was seriously injured.
Although prosecutors concluded the train operator was at fault, they said he could not be charged because Minnesota’s Traffic Code “does not apply to the operation of a rail train.”
Rep. Runbeck’s proposal would change that.
“The legislature needs to make it absolutely clear that the same laws that apply to any other vehicle also apply to light rail trains,” she said. “Ultimately this is about justice under the law, and it's my hope that state law will be amended before another tragic accident occurs.”
Her bill would also set a blood alcohol limit at 0.04 for light rail operators – the same level as drivers of commercial vehicles.