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U.S. Supreme Court

Lehigh Valley R. Co. v. Board of Public Utility Comm'rs, 278 U.S. 24 (1928)

Lehigh Valley Railroad Company v. Board of Public Utility Commissioners

Nos. 24 and 54

Argued October 10, 11, 1928

Decided November 19, 1928

278 U.S. 24


1. An agreement upon a plan for eliminating a grade crossing, adopted tentatively by the engineer staffs of a railroad and of the state Highway Commission of New Jersey, and followed by expenditures on the part of the railroad company but not executed by the company or the Commission, held not to have constituted a contract or an estoppel. P. 278 U. S. 30.

2. A state commission adopted a plan to eliminate a grade crossing between a railroad and an important state highway, retaining the straight alignment of the highway at the crossing and approaches, and providing width for present and future exigencies of travel, but entailing heavy expense -- more than $300,000 -- to the railroad company due chiefly to the necessity of raising the tracks to clear the highway and to the added width of the viaduct resulting from the sharp angle at which the highway and railroad crossed. A plan proposed by the company for avoiding these features by changing the place of crossing and relocating the highway for some distance on either side would have saved the company over $100,000, but was rejected by the commission because it involved making several curves in the highway and several deep cuts for its passage, deemed dangerous to travel. Held that to require the greater expense could not be adjudged violative of the Fourteenth Amendment considering the importance of the crossing, the probable permanence of the improvement, the demands upon the highway now and in the near future, and the dangers to be avoided. P. 278 U. S. 33.

3. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, a state cannot put railroad companies to greater expense in the abolition of grade crossings than is reasonably necessary to avoid their dangers to the public. P. 278 U. S. 34.

4. Reasonable expenditures for the abolition of grade crossings required by state of an interstate railroad and not shown to interfere with or impair its economical management and service are consistent with the Transportation Act. P. 278 U. S. 35. chanrobles.com-red

Page 278 U. S. 25

5. An order of the Public Utilities Commission of New Jersey requiring a railroad company to eliminate a grade crossing at its own expense, objected to as confiscatory, is reviewable in fact and in law by the supreme court of the state upon certiorari, pursuant to its statutory and inherent power. Ohio Valley Water Co. v. Ben Avon, 253 U. S. 287, distinguished. P. 278 U. S. 36.

6. Semble that, were this remedy by certiorari inadequate or unavailable, resort could be had to the Court of Chancery. P. 278 U. S. 40.


Appeals from decrees of the district court, of three judges, one decree denying a temporary injunction, the other dismissing the bill on final hearing, in a suit by the railroad company to enjoin enforcement of a grade crossing order. chanrobles.com-red

Page 278 U. S. 28


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