Arlington, VA asked in Real Estate Law, Environmental, Land Use & Zoning and Municipal Law for Virginia

Q: I'm looking for the legal auth. for a railroad to maintain a bridge for public access to homes for emergency services.

The bridge is in Virginia and was built by the railroad company in 1892 and is maintained by them. The bridge does not carry rail traffic, rather it carries public vehicles on a roadway that was not taken into the Virginia Department of Highways system in 1932 when the State took control over secondary roadways. The bridge has deteriorated to the point that emergency services cannot be provided to the neighborhood due to weight restrictions. The railroad has refused to upgrade or repair the bridge.

1 Lawyer Answer
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
  • Real Estate Law Lawyer
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: And, your anticipation is that some presently active lawyer will have a present sense recollection of the history of that property and the changing responsibilities for that bridge in 1892 and 1932? How quaint. What may be useful is if you follow the model of historical societies like Peerless Rockville and research all of the documents and deeds, recorded or included in state bills, regarding that property. Combine that with a title search and a tax roll search in Arlington to create a history of the bridge. Then, a demand to the railroad might work, but it probably won't. My guess from your recitation is that the state took control of the roadway, so why would the railroad repair it? Once you have determined whose bridge it is and what agreements apply to its maintenance, you can review the agreements and lobby the appropriate authority to fix it. Or, you can petition your legislators to make it a political issue and get the infrastructure fixed. I'm sure that a lawyer might help in that effort, but, unless you find some legal duty and can then prove that the bridge is a nuisance, I don't think the courts can help you.

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