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MISSOURI PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY v. CITY OMAHA

November 30, 1914

MISSOURI PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY
v.
CITY OF OMAHA



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds

Author: Day

[ 235 U.S. Page 126]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

This suit was originally instituted in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Nebraska. Its object was to enjoin the City of Omaha from requiring the Missouri Pacific Railway Company, by virtue of a certain ordinance of the City, to construct a viaduct over and across its line of railway and along Dodge Street, in said City. The Circuit Court dismissed the bill and the decree was affirmed in the Circuit Court of Appeals, 197 Fed. Rep. 516. The ordinance, passed March 29, 1910, ordered the appellant to erect, construct and complete the viaduct and approaches on Dodge Street, of the width, height, strength, and of the material and manner of construction required by the City Engineer of the City of Omaha, and according to the plans and specifications prepared by him. The ordinance required that the company commence the erection and construction of the viaduct by May. 1, 1910, and complete the same on or before January 1, 1911.

Dodge Street is a well-known thoroughfare of the city for the passage of foot passengers and vehicles of all sorts, and it is also used by the tracks of a street railway company. There is testimony in the record tending to show that the viaduct as ordered to be constructed, is of a width and strength sufficient to sustain the street railway system theretofore laid upon Dodge Street, and crossing thereon the tracks of the railway company. It is contended,

[ 235 U.S. Page 127]

     and there is testimony tending to show that a viaduct sufficient to carry the ordinary traffic of the street, other than that of the street railroad, could be constructed at a cost of about $30,000, whereas the viaduct ordered to be built would cost approximately $80,000, the increase being largely due to the requirements of the street railway traffic. This requirement on the part of the City is alleged to be a confiscation of the property of the railway company to the extent of this increased cost, and a taking of its property without compensation for the benefit of another, and therefore without due process of law, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

That a railway company may be required by the State, or by a duly authorized municipality acting under its authority, to construct overhead crossings or viaducts at its own expense, and that the consequent cost to the company as a matter of law is damnum absque injuria, or deemed to be compensated by the public benefit which the company is supposed to share, is well settled by prior adjudications of this court. Chicago &c. Railroad v. Nebraska, 170 U.S. 57; Chicago &c. Railway v. Drainage Commissioners, 200 U.S. 561; Northern Pacific Railway v. Duluth, 208 U.S. 583; Cincinnati, Indianapolis & Western Railway v. Connersville, 218 U.S. 336; Chicago, Mil. & St. Paul Railway v. Minneapolis, 232 U.S. 430, 438.

This is done in the exercise of the police power, and the means to be employed to promote the public safety are primarily in the judgment of the legislative branch of the government, to whose authority such matters are committed, and so long as the means have a substantial relation to the purpose to be accomplished, and there is no arbitrary interference with private rights, the courts cannot interfere with the exercise of the power by enjoining regulations made in the interest of public safety which the legislature has duly enacted. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway

[ 235 U.S. Page 128]

     v. Drainage Commissioners, supra; McLean v. Arkansas, 211 U.S. 539; Atlantic Coast Line v. Goldsboro, 232 U.S. 548. That the City of Omaha had power to pass an ordinance of this character in execution of the authority conferred upon it by the legislature of the State, has been determined by the highest court of the State of Nebraska, considering Chapter 12-a, ยง 128, Compiled Statutes of Nebraska, 1911.*fn1 State v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, 143 N.W. Rep. 918. In that case the state Supreme Court declares (p. 919) the "power to require railway companies to construct above their tracks at street crossings

[ 235 U.S. Page 129]

     such viaducts 'as may be deemed and declared by the mayor and council necessary for the safety and protection of the public' is in direct terms conferred by the legislature upon the City of Omaha." As this is a question of state law (Atlantic Coast Line v. Goldsboro, 232 U.S. 548), we need not dwell upon it further. Indeed, such authority seems to be admitted in the brief of appellant, and the argument is addressed to an alleged abuse of the power conferred. To maintain this position, it is first insisted that the construction of the viaduct in such manner as to carry the tracks of the street railway company will entail additional expense of about $50,000, over the cost of a viaduct providing only for the transportation of other kinds of traffic. It may be that it would be more fair and equitable to require the street railway company to share in the expense of the viaduct, and if the municipality had been authorized so to do by competent authority, it would have been a constitutional exercise of the police power to have made such division of expenses. Detroit &c. Railway v. Osborn, 189 U.S. 383, 389. But there is nothing in the statute requiring the municipality to divide the expense of such improvement among those responsible for the dangerous condition of the street crossing. Where a number of railroads have contributed to the condition which necessitates such improvement in the interest of public safety, it is not an unconstitutional exercise of authority, as this court has held, to require one of the companies interested to perform such work at its own expense. Chicago &c. Railroad ...


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