Federal Court Shoots Down BNSF Lawsuit Against Wenatchee
A lawsuit against the City of Wenatchee by the BNSF Railway Company has been dismissed.
A federal judge in Spokane granted the city's motion for dismissal.
BNSF was challenging city's demand for the company to cover all maintenance costs for safety enhancements the city plans to install at the double railroad crossing on 9th Street.
The judge shot down several legal arguments by BNSF, including claims the company made under the Due Process and Interstate Commerce clauses.
BNSF claimed Washington Law violates the Due Process Clause by forcing the company to pay 100% of maintenance work the city chooses to make and hand over a "perpetual blank check" for that maintenance.
United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice said BNSF had the opportunity to make its case before the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which decides how the maintenance costs in question are apportioned.
The judge said the railroad had an opportunity to be heard by the Commission and could appeal the Commission’s decision in the courts.
Judge Rice further said BNSF had no facts to plead under the Interstate Commerce Clause. He also cited a US Supreme Court decision that said, "in the exercise of the police power, the cost of such improvements may be allocated all to the railroads”...and...‘To engage in interstate commerce the railroad must get on to the land and to get on to it must comply with the conditions imposed by the State for the safety of its citizens.’”
In addition, the judge determined that federal and state laws do not protect BNSF from paying maintenance costs for the railroad crossing.
The City of Wenatchee was joined by an intervenor, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, in making a motion to dismiss the lawsuit from BNSF, which Judge Rice granted.
The judge issued his decision last Tuesday, Jan,24.
The city is using federal funds to pay 90% of the cost of installing the $1.2 million railroad crossing enhancements. The Utilities and Transportation Commission must still approve the project of it to move forward.