Compulsory Expenditures: Grade Crossings, and the Like.

Generally, the enforcement of uncompensated obedience to a regulation for the public health and safety is not an unconstitutional taking of property in violation of due process.199 Thus, where a water company laid its lines on an ungraded street, and the applicable rule at the time of the granting of its charter compelled the company to furnish connections at its own expense to one residing on such a street, due process is not violated.200 Or, where a gas company laid its pipes under city streets, it may validly be obligated to assume the cost of moving them to accommodate a municipal drainage system.201 Or, railroads may be required to help fund the elimination of grade crossings, even though commercial highway users, who make no contribution whatsoever, benefit from such improvements.

Although the power of the state in this respect is not unlimited, and an “arbitrary” and “unreasonable” imposition on these businesses may be set aside, the Court’s modern approach to substantive due process analysis makes this possibility far less likely than it once was. For instance, a 1935 case invalidated a requirement that railroads share 50% of the cost of grade separation, irrespective of the value of such improvements to the railroad, suggesting that railroads could not be required to subsidize competitive transportation modes.202 But in 1953 the Court distinguished this case, ruling that the costs of grade separation improvements need not be allocated solely on the basis of benefits that would accrue to railroad property.203 Although the Court cautioned that “allocation of costs must be fair and reasonable,” it was deferential to local governmental decisions, stating that, in the exercise of the police power to meet transportation, safety, and convenience needs of a growing community, “the cost of such improvements may be allocated all to the railroads.”204


Norfolk Turnpike Co. v. Virginia, 225 U.S. 264 (1912) (requiring a turnpike company to suspend tolls until the road is put in good order does not violate due process of law, notwithstanding that present patronage does not yield revenue sufficient to maintain the road in proper condition); International Bridge Co. v. New York, 254 U.S. 126 (1920) (in the absence of proof that the addition will not yield a reasonable return, a railroad bridge company is not deprived of its property when it is ordered to widen its bridge by inclusion of a pathway for pedestrians and a roadway for vehicles.); Chicago, B. & Q. R.R. v. Nebraska, 170 U.S. 57 (1898) (railroads may be required to repair viaduct under which they operate); Chicago, B. & Q. Ry. v. Drainage Comm’n, 200 U.S. 561 (1906) (reconstruct a bridge or provide means for passing water for drainage through their embankment); Chicago & Alton R.R. v. Tranbarger, 238 U.S. 67 (1915) (drainage requirements); Lake Shore & Mich. So. Ry. v. Clough, 242 U.S. 375 (1917) (drainage requirements); Pacific Gas Co. v. Police Court, 251 U.S. 22 (1919) (requirement to sprinkle street occupied by railroad.). But see Chicago, St. P., Mo. & O. Ry. v. Holmberg, 282 U.S. 162 (1930) (due process violated by a requirement that an underground cattle-pass is be constructed, not as a safety measure but as a convenience to farmers). back
Consumers’ Co. v. Hatch, 224 U.S. 148 (1912). However, if pipe and telephone lines are located on a right of way owned by a pipeline company, the latter cannot, without a denial of due process, be required to relocate such equipment at its own expense. Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co. v. Highway Comm’n, 294 U.S. 613 (1935). back
New Orleans Gas Co. v. Drainage Comm’n, 197 U.S. 453 (1905). back
Nashville, C. & St. L. Ry. v. Walters, 294 U.S. 405 (1935). See also Lehigh Valley R.R. v. Commissioners, 278 U.S. 24, 35 (1928) (upholding imposition of grade crossing costs on a railroad although “near the line of reasonableness,” and reiterating that “unreasonably extravagant” requirements would be struck down). back
Atchison, T. & S.F. Ry. v. Public Util. Comm’n, 346 U.S. 346 (1953). back
346 U.S. at 352. back