Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 56. Public Service Companies
Chapter 13. Railroad Corporations
11/27/2022

Article 6. Highway Crossings.

§ 56-405. Railroad companies to maintain grade crossings of public highways and approaches; repair by Commissioner of Highways or public road authority; recovery of cost from railroad company.

At every crossing, now existing or hereafter established, of a public road by a railroad or of a railroad by a public highway at grade, it shall be the duty of the railroad company to keep such crossing in good repair to the full width of the public highway, and to maintain such crossing in a smooth condition so as to admit of reasonable and safe travel over the same, and it shall also be the duty of the railroad company to maintain and keep in good repair that portion of the highway located between points two feet on either side of the extreme rails. A railroad may request that a public highway be closed for grade crossing maintenance activities, and the representative of the Commissioner of Highways or the representative of the appropriate public road authority may approve such closing where a reasonable detour is available. Any railroad company violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $10 nor more than $500.

The Commissioner of Highways or the representative of the public road authority, whenever he or it shall ascertain that any such crossing is not being properly maintained, shall notify the railroad company involved in writing to repair the crossing forthwith; the railroad company upon receipt of notice may request a conference on the condition of the crossing and the need, if any, for the repair of such crossing and such conference shall be held within thirty days after receipt of the Commissioner's or the public road authority's notice. After the conference if the Commissioner or the public road authority is of the opinion that such repairs are required and the railroad is not willing to proceed promptly with such repairs, he or the public road authority may repair the same or cause it to be repaired and recover from the railroad company the actual cost of such work including any administration and engineering cost.

If no conference is requested by the railroad company within the thirty-day period, the Commissioner or the public road authority with advance notice may repair the crossing or cause it to be repaired and recover from the railroad company the actual cost of such work including any administration and engineering cost.

In any action under this section to recover the cost of the repair of any such crossing, the need for, and reasonableness of, the repairs may be put in issue.

Nothing herein shall be construed as placing a duty on the railroad company to construct or reconstruct any such crossing in the event any such crossing is relocated or the highway approaches thereto are widened or reconstructed.

Code 1919, § 3973; 1952, c. 99; 1960, c. 544; 1968, c. 226; 1978, c. 214; 1996, cc. 114, 157.

§ 56-405.01. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1996, cc. 114 and 157.

§ 56-405.02. Railroads to adjust certain public highways at grade crossings.

When adjustments are made to railway trackage grade which crosses public rights-of-way in use as a public highway or street in any locality, the railway company making such adjustments to their trackage shall also make initial adjustments to those public highways or streets so affected thereby to maintain a safe vertical relationship between trackage and street surfaces and to insure positive storm drainage such as existed prior to such repairs. After making such initial adjustments the responsibility for the continuing maintenance of the areas within such public highways and streets so adjusted shall be controlled by § 56-405.

The cost of all such initial street improvements necessitated by railway trackage adjustments shall be the responsibility of the railway company making such initial adjustments irrespective of whether or not the street improvements extended beyond railway right-of-way.

1984, c. 439; 1996, cc. 114, 157.

§ 56-405.1. Agreements with Commissioner of Highways or public road authority representative for maintenance and repair of public grade crossings.

Whenever the Commissioner of Highways or representative of the appropriate public road authority determines that it is in the best interest of the public to assist a railroad in its grade crossing maintenance and repair activities, he is authorized to enter into an agreement with the railroad company for the repair or maintenance of any crossing of a railroad and a public highway or for the sale of materials to the railroad company for the repair and maintenance of any such crossing. Any such agreement shall provide for the railroad company to bear the cost of the repair or maintenance or material furnished and such other conditions as the Commissioner of Highways or representative of the appropriate public road authority deems necessary or advisable to protect the interest of the public.

1968, c. 175; 1996, cc. 114, 157.

§ 56-405.2. Construction and maintenance of crossbucks.

Every railroad company shall cause signal boards, hereinafter referred to as crossbucks, well supported by posts or otherwise and approved by the Department of Transportation at such heights as to be easily seen by travelers from both directions of the public highway, and not obstructing travel, containing in capital letters, at least five inches high, the inscription "railroad crossing," to be placed, and constantly maintained, at each public highway at or near, and on both sides of, each place where it is crossed by the railroad at the same level. The requirements of this section in localities that maintain their own streets may be waived at specific crossings on the petition of any such company to both the Commissioner of Highways and the public road authority if both the Commissioner and the public road authority determine that any such crossing has or will have other adequate warning devices or that the placement of new crossbucks will not enhance the safety of the traveling public. Neither official action nor failure to act as hereinabove provided shall impair the power of the Commissioner or the public road authority to require crossbucks at specific public crossings should a subsequent determination of their need be made.

The cost of erecting crossbucks placed at a public highway for the first time or whenever the Commissioner or the public road authority determines an upgrade of the standards is required may be paid or supplemented from federal funds when available to the Department of Transportation for such purpose at the sole discretion of the Commissioner of Highways. But the election of the Commissioner not to participate in such cost shall not relieve any company from the obligation of this section.

This section shall apply as to cities and towns in the case of new crossbucks beginning July 1, 1977.

1977, c. 226; 1996, cc. 114, 157.

§ 56-405.3. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1996, cc. 114 and 157.

§ 56-406. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1977, c. 226.

§ 56-406.1. Proceedings for installation and maintenance of automatically operated gates, signals and other automatic crossing warning devices.

Railroads shall cooperate with the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation in furnishing information and technical assistance to enable the Commonwealth to develop plans and project priorities for the elimination of hazardous conditions at any crossing of a public highway which crosses at grade including, but not limited to, grade crossing elimination, reconstruction of existing grade crossings, and grade crossing improvements. The Commonwealth shall provide each locality a listing of grade crossing safety needs for its consideration. Information collected and analyses undertaken by the designated state agencies are subject to 23 U.S.C. § 409. A railroad shall not unilaterally select or determine the type of grade crossing warning system to be installed at any crossing of a public highway and railroad at grade. The railroad shall only install or upgrade a grade crossing warning system at any crossing of a public highway and railroad at grade pursuant to an agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation or representative of the appropriate public road authority authorized to enter into such agreements. A railroad is not required but is permitted to upgrade, at its own expense, components of any public highway at grade warning system when such upgrade is incidental to a railroad improvement project relating to track, structures or train control systems.

When required by the Commissioner of Highways or representative of the appropriate public road authority, every railroad company shall cause a grade crossing warning device including flashing lights approved by the Department of Transportation at such heights as to be easily seen by travelers, and not obstructing travel, to be placed, and maintained at each public highway at or near each place where it is crossed by the railroad at the same level. Such warning device shall be automatically activated by the approaching train so as to be clearly discernible to travelers approaching the railroad crossing from each direction at a distance of two-hundred feet. Such warning devices shall be erected at the initiative of the appropriate public road authority only when required by ordinance or resolution adopted by the Commissioner or the appropriate public road authority thereof stating that such political subdivision will pay the full initial installation cost of such warning devices and that maintenance costs will be fixed as provided in § 56-406.2. A certified copy of such ordinance or resolution shall be delivered to such railroad company, and such railroad company shall forthwith install such warning devices at the full initial cost of such public road authority. The cost of such installation and maintenance of such warning devices may be shared by agreement between such railroad company and the Commissioner of Highways or the appropriate public road authority, when initiating such installation. The railroad shall be responsible for the continuing maintenance of the warning devices.

In the event that such Commissioner or representative of the appropriate public road authority and the railroad company or companies involved are unable to agree on (i) the necessity for such grade crossing warning device, or (ii) the plans and specifications for and the method and manner of construction or operation thereof, or (iii) the share of the cost of construction, if any, to be borne by the railroad company or companies involved, then the Commissioner of Highways or representative of the appropriate public road authority, as the case may be, shall petition the State Corporation Commission setting forth the grade crossing warning devices desired and the plans and specifications for and the method and manner of construction and operation of the devices desired and the facts which, in the opinion of the petitioner, justify the requiring of the same. Copies of the petition and plans and specifications shall be forthwith served by the State Corporation Commission on the railroad company or companies involved. Within twenty days after service on it of such petition and plans and specifications, each such railroad company shall file an answer with the State Corporation Commission setting out its objections to the proposed project, and the Commission shall hear and determine the matter as other matters are heard and determined by that body. The Commission shall consider all the facts and circumstances surrounding the case and shall determine (a) whether public necessity justifies or requires the proposed warning devices, (b) whether the plans and specifications or the method and manner of construction and operation be proper and appropriate, and (c) what share of the cost of the project, if any, to be borne by any railroad company involved is fair and reasonable, having regard to the benefits, if any, accruing to such railroad company from providing such grade crossing warning devices, and either dismiss the proceeding as against such railroad company or enter an order deciding and disposing of all of the matters hereinbefore submitted to its jurisdiction.

1952, c. 400; 1954, c. 122; 1962, c. 527; 1996, cc. 114, 157.

§ 56-406.2. Proceeding for fixing cost of maintaining such warning devices at public grade crossings.

Whenever any automatically operated gate, signal or other automatic crossing warning device has been or may hereafter be installed at any highway, road or street grade crossing by any railroad company, the Commissioner of Highways or the public road authority may agree with the railroad company involved as to the division of the cost of the future maintenance of any such device or devices. The basis for the division of costs shall be determined by the Department of Rail and Public Transportation utilizing the calculated average maintenance cost of all previous warning device maintenance performed and documented by all railroads operating in Virginia. In the event that the Commissioner or the public road authority and the railroad company involved are unable to agree upon the share of the cost of maintenance of any such device or devices to be borne by the railroad company, if any, then such railroad company may file a petition with the State Corporation Commission setting forth the crossing protection provided at such crossing, the terms of the contract and/or the conditions of the order of said Commission or the public road authority under which it was constructed and installed and the estimated future annual cost of maintaining the same. Copies of such petition shall forthwith be served by the State Corporation Commission upon the Commissioner of Highways or the public road authority who shall, within twenty days after service of such petition, file an answer thereto setting out reasons for declining to participate in the future cost of maintaining such warning device or devices as requested by the railroad company, and the Commission shall thereupon hear and determine the matter as other matters are heard and determined by that body. The Commission shall consider all the facts and circumstances surrounding the case and shall determine what share of the cost of the future maintenance of such warning device or devices, if any, shall be borne by the railroad company and/or the Commonwealth Transportation Board or the public road authority, having regard to the benefits, if any, accruing to such railroad company from the continued maintenance of such protection of said public highway, road or street grade crossing, and either dismiss the proceeding or enter an order deciding and disposing of the matters therein submitted to its jurisdiction.

1956, c. 626; 1962, c. 528; 1996, cc. 114, 157.

§ 56-407. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1956, c. 164.

§ 56-408. Signs similar to crossing signs prohibited.

No device or sign which is in the form of a railroad crossing signboard shall be erected or permitted to remain on or near any of the public roads of this Commonwealth, except as required by § 56-405.2.

Any person who shall erect such a device or sign, as aforesaid, and every sign owner who shall permit such a device or sign to remain on or near the public roads of this Commonwealth, and every landowner or tenant in possession who shall knowingly permit such a sign to remain on his land in view of any public road, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than $5 nor more than $100.

1918, p. 128; Michie Code 1942, § 3985a; 1956, c. 164.

§ 56-409. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1954, c. 122.

§ 56-411. Removal of brush and trees from right-of-way.

Every railway company operating in this Commonwealth shall be required to clear from its right-of-way trees and brush for 100' on each side of public road crossings at grade when such trees or brush would otherwise obstruct the view of approaching trains.

Every railway company violating the provisions of this section shall be fined not more than $500 for each offense, to be imposed by the State Corporation Commission after due notice and hearing upon the company or the employee so offending.

1918, p. 452; Michie Code 1942, § 3986a; 1996, cc. 114, 157.

§ 56-412. When trains shall be stopped before getting to railroad crossing.

Whenever railroads cross each other on the same grade in this Commonwealth, the trains shall be brought to a full stop at least fifty feet before getting to the crossing.

The provisions of this section shall not be applicable where the crossings of such roads are regulated by derailing switches, or other safety appliances, which prevent collision at crossings, nor where a flagman or watchman is stationed, or signal tower is located, and signals that the trains may cross in safety.

Code 1919, § 3987.

§ 56-412.1. Railroad cars obstructing street or road; standing vehicle on railroad track.

It shall be unlawful for any railroad company, or any receiver or trustee operating a railroad, to obstruct for a longer period than five minutes the free passage on any street or road by standing cars or trains across the same, except a passenger train while receiving or discharging passengers, but a passway shall be kept open to allow normal flow of traffic; nor shall it be lawful to stand any wagon or other vehicle on the track of any railroad which will hinder or endanger a moving train; provided that when a train has been uncoupled, so as to make a passway, the time necessarily required, not exceeding three minutes, to pump up the air after the train has been recoupled shall not be included in considering the time such cars or trains were standing across such street or road. Any such railroad company, receiver or trustee, violating any of the provisions of this section shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $500; provided that the fine may be $100 for each minute beyond the permitted time but the total fine shall not exceed $500.

This section shall not apply when the train is stopped due to breakdown, mechanical failure or emergency.

1958, c. 242; 1976, c. 89.

§ 56-412.2. Ordinances conflicting with § 56-412.1.

No city, town or county shall adopt any ordinance, order or resolution in conflict with the provisions of § 56-412.1 and all ordinances, orders or resolutions of any city, town or county heretofore adopted in conflict with such section are hereby repealed to the extent of such conflict.

1958, c. 242.

§ 56-412.3. Maintenance of certain roadways by Buchanan County.

The Board of Supervisors of Buchanan County is hereby authorized to maintain roadways located within the right-of-way of railroads pursuant to an agreement between Buchanan County and the railroad. However, nothing in this section shall obligate Buchanan County or the railroad to enter into any such agreement, nor shall Buchanan County or the railroad be precluded from including in any agreement any term, condition, or other lawful contractual provision. Any agreement made between Buchanan County and a railroad shall result in the complete immunity of the railroad from suit for any acts of the County in maintaining the roadways within the right-of-way of the railroad. The Board of Supervisors of Buchanan County shall cause all such roadways to be appropriately posted to warn users of such roadways that they are present on such roadways at their own risk.

2010, c. 256.