Railroad Fencing

Studies show that fencing along railroad rights-of-ways deter both children and adults from entering the rights-of-way and coming in contact with the inherent dangers of trains and railroad tracks. Railroads are also fully aware that railroad tracks cut neighborhoods in half and that most people will walk across tracks, rather than walk several miles out of their way, and that these tracks are attractive to children.

The FRA and safety engineers have studied the massive problem of pedestrians being killed on railroad tracks and have recommended fencing as a highly effective solution, going back to the 1970s. Despite this, most major railroads refuse to fence their tracks, even in areas they know are highly used by pedestrians, including areas where multiple fatalities have already occurred. Ironically, railroads actually require cities, parks, and trails wanting to build next to their tracks to build and pay for fencing, but refuse to build or pay for fencing themselves. Perhaps more ironic, is that railroads fence their own yards and facilities to deter trespassers, but refuse to build fencing in areas it knows are dangerous.

Several states have long-standing laws, regulations, or statutes requiring railroads to fence off their tracks and rights-of-ways. Railroads often refuse to comply with these laws. Minnesota for example, has a law requiring railroads in the state to fence both sides of its rights of way. The purpose of the statute is to protect children, and “the duty created by the statute is absolute” and “it is not a mere fence law, but a police regulation designed for the benefit of the public.” Rosse v. St. Paul D. R. Co., 68 Minn. 216, 218 (1897). Minnesota has expressly, and repeatedly, held that its fencing statute mandates that railroads are 100% are fault when certain requirements are not met, such as a railroad fails to build or maintain a fence and a child is injured. Such an example happened in the case of a nine-year-old St. Paul boy, in which Bolt Hoffer Boyd was retained.

Minnesota also has a law that allows individuals and businesses that own property that abuts railroad tracks to request that the railroad build and maintain a strong fence. Railroads then have 30 days to construct the fence, depending on the time of the year. In the likely case that railroads refuse to build such a fence, the property owners have the option building the fence themselves and seeking double the cost of the fence, plus attorney fees, or they can start a lawsuit against the refusing railroad for the cost of a fence, plus attorney fees. Any property owners and ranchers near railroad tracks may request such a fence be built. If you are interested in making such a claim, you can contact the Bolt Hoffer Boyd law firm. We have experience dealing with railroads across the country, and specifically with the laws and facts concerning railroads and fencing.