Michigan Association of Police

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed three bipartisan bills into law assisting first responders by enabling them to better protect the public. SB 125 and HB 4153 address rail grade separation by providing communities an opportunity to obtain grant funding to build overpasses and underpasses to go around railroad crossings and SB 59 expands the peace officer definition to include DNR conservation officers.

“Rail grade separation will keep drivers safe on local roads and alleviate backed up traffic at rail crossings, especially in the Downriver area,” Gov. Whitmer said. “… Offering conservation officers the same authority as other law enforcement will help them keep people facing mental health crises safe and protect our parks.” 

Senate Bill 125, sponsored by state Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), and House Bill 4153, sponsored by state Rep. Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte), authorizes the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to create a local grade separation grant program and fund. The fund can be used by local communities to build overpasses and underpasses, separating vehicle traffic from railroad traffic. Delays caused by trains can slow down the flow of traffic and represent a safety hazard for cars and pedestrians. This legislation offers communities with rail crossings resources to improve traffic flow, reduce delays, and save lives.

“Grade separations are critical to public safety,” said Woodhaven Mayor Patricia Odette. “The City of Woodhaven has experienced first-hand the impact blocked railroad crossings have to the safety of our residents. When fire and police are detoured, those lost minutes are critical to the outcome for the person waiting on the other side of the train. We appreciate Governor Whitmer, Senator Darrin Camilleri, Representative Jamie Thompson and all the legislators that made this grade separation grant fund possible.”

“I’ve been talking about Downriver’s train problem to anyone who would listen since I first took office, and it’s because I knew we could do more to solve it,” said Camilleri, who first introduced his statewide grade separation program legislation in 2017. “With this historic legislation, we will have a pathway to building more bridges at the most problematic rail crossings across our state and address some of our most critical transportation, public safety, and economic development issues.”

"For decades, train delays have cost Downriver residents their lives, livelihoods, and a lot of wasted time,” Churches said. “Our legislation will finally update our infrastructure to better meet the needs of the community. Newly constructed overpasses and underpasses at train crossings will ensure uninterrupted transport for first responders and everyday Michiganders getting to work, school, and around our communities."

“Trenton is incredibly thankful for the work of Governor Whitmer, Senator Camilleri, and Representative Churches to secure funding towards a railroad grade separation on Fort St.,” said Mayor of Trenton, Steve Rzeppa. “This is a huge issue for our residents as both a public safety and economic development matter. This grade separation will ensure our first responders and residents have access to our area hospital without fear of lengthy train delays inhibiting lifesaving care, that businesses won’t see long traffic backups inhibiting their access and growth, and parents on their way to and from work or school with their children can get to where they need and on time. We look forward to continuing to work with all levels of government to get this project completed.”

Senate Bill 59, sponsored by Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint), expands the definition of a peace officer in the mental health code to include Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers. Conservation officers often interact with people in state parks who are facing mental health challenges or undergoing an episode that requires them to be temporarily detained for their own safety and the safety of other park-goers. Expanding the definition of a peace officer in the mental health code authorizes conservation officers to take action when confronted with someone exhibiting warning signs or presenting a danger to themselves or others in our state parks.

“Unfortunately, people have gone to state parks or public lands to harm themselves, and under current law, conservation officers have to call in another law enforcement agency to take a subject into protective custody," Cherry said. “This common-sense solution will allow our experienced conservation officers to intervene appropriately when they believe a person may be a harm to themselves or others.”