A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Crossings: Right vs. right thing to do

Written February 5th, 2013 by


The dispute over private railroad crossings may end up here, in the Linn County Courthouse.

The dispute over private railroad crossings may end up here, in the Linn County Courthouse.

In Linn County, the Albany & Eastern Railroad has filed trespassing complaints against a handful of property owners who must cross the tracks to get to their homes. The owners have refused to pay the railroad’s demands for a one-time payment plus annual fees for permission to come and go to and from their residences, which are on  the wrong side — literally — of the tracks between Lebanon and Sweet Home.

The previous owner of that rail line apparently had neglected the crossing issue for a long time, with the result that homeowners were unaware of the precarious nature if their private crossings and the railroad’s rights. But sometimes rights under the law are one thing and the right thing to do is something else. Seems to me that is the case here.

If you have lived some place and crossed the tracks to get there for years, and then the railroad demands $600 plus a continuing fee of $10 a month, you too would protest. You might not resist all that much if the line was busy with several trains a day and the crossing needed maintenance all the time. Then you might understand why permission to cross would come with a cost. But the Lebanon line is all but dormant. If there’s any shipping on the line at all, it is rare indeed.

Railroads have all kinds of privileges under federal law to protect them from local interference all along their tracks. They could not do business otherwise. But this does not justify bullying or making life unpleasant for their neighbors. The trespass complaints by the Albany & Eastern evidently are headed for court. If the cases get to the point of a trial, jurors may get the chance to tell the company what they think. (hh)

From Bob Thomas, via Facebook:  I disagree, no matter what, it is private land, even if they crossed for a 100 years, they don’t own the land. Sorry they have to pay, but they knew they didn’t own it when they bought the property.



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