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City's Ability to Condemn an Easement Across Railroad Tracks to Construct a Street

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Reviewed Date: May 17, 2017

Original Author: 
Shechter, Leslie
Date Created: 
Jul 17, 1992


Subjects:
Eminent domain
Land use
Railroads
Streets--Construction

City's Ability to Condemn an Easement Across Railroad Tracks to Construct a Street

Summary: 
The authority granted to municipalities to condemn property to establish streets and highways also allows condemnation across railroad tracks so long as use of the land for railroad purposes is not destroyed.

Knowledgebase-City's Ability to Condemn an Easement Across Railroad Tracks to Construct a Street July 17, 1992

This is to follow up on our phone conversation yesterday regarding the City's ability to condemn an easement across railroad tracks to construct a street. The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that the general legislative authority granted to municipalities to condemn property to establish streets and highways also allows condemnation across railroad tracks so long as use of the land for railroad purposes is not destroyed. City of Memphis v. Southern Railroad Co., 167 Tenn. 181, 67 S.W.2d 552 (1934). Where construction of the street crossing at the railroad requires destruction of railroad property or makes use of the property for railroad purposes difficult, there must be more specific legislative authority. The railroad would likely be entitled to a hearing on the issue of safety and potential interference with rail operations. Town of Collierville v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 1 S.W.3d 68 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998)

My understanding of your proposal is that there would be no interruption or destruction of the tracks for railroad purposes. If this is the case, you should have no problem treating these private railroad owners in the same fashion as any other private property owner.

Thanks for asking MTAS to help.

Sincerely,

Leslie Shechter
Legal Consultant


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