Legislation would close loophole excluding light rail operators from traffic laws

January 24, 2019 06:36 PM

A state lawmaker has authored legislation aimed at closing a loophole in Minnesota's traffic laws that excludes operators of light rail trains.

A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation exposed the loophole that resulted in the driver of a Green Line train not being criminally charged in connection to a crash that killed a man in July, 2017.

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RELATED: Family of man killed in light rail crash calls for changes to state law

St. Paul City Attorney Lyndsey Olson said her office could not charge Abdellatif El Maarouf, even after a Metro Transit investigation found he caused the crash that killed Nicholas Westlake, 29, by running a red light and failing to stop for a traffic signal.

In an email sent to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Olson wrote “… there can be no criminal charges in this case for violation of the traffic code because it does not apply to the operation of a rail train.”

RELATED: Light rail operator found at fault for fatal crash, will not face charges

Olson acknowledged the loophole in the law and agreed with Westlake's family that it should be corrected.

Rep. Linda Runbeck hopes a bill she drafted closes that loophole once and for all.

"It's a glitch, it's an oversight," Runbeck said of Minnesota's current traffic laws which exclude light rail operators.  "We are taking that and making sure a light rail operator can be judged in their driving according to those laws that apply to everybody."

RELATED: Family of ballroom dancer killed in light rail crash files wrongful death suit

If her bill becomes law, Runbeck said light rail operators would be subject to criminal charges and penalties if they're found guilty of a traffic violation such as speeding, running a red light, failure to yield or reckless driving.

Runbeck expects her bill to be officially filed at the State Capitol by early next week.

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Tim Vetscher

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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