Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway v. Waters,
294 U.S. 405 (1935)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway v. Waters, 294 U.S. 405 (1935)

Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway v. Waters

No. 183

Argued December 6, 1934

Reargued January 16, 1935

Decided March 4, 1935

294 U.S. 405


1. A statute, valid when enacted, may become invalid by change in the conditions to which it is applied. P. 294 U. S. 414.

2. The police power is subject to the constitutional limitation that it may not be exerted arbitrarily or unreasonably. P. 294 U. S. 415.

Page 294 U. S. 406

3. The power in a State to require a railroad company to bear expenses of separating the grades of the railway and a new highway at crossing is not absolute, but is subject to the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and it does not exist in the particular case if, upon the facts of that case, the exaction would be unreasonable or arbitrary. P. 294 U. S. 413.

4. In resisting an imposition upon it, under a state statute, of one-half the cost of an underpass to separate the grades of its main line and a proposed new highway, the railway company adduced, among other facts, that the highway was designed for high-speed through motor traffic across the State, as part of the national system of Federal-aid highways largely planned, financed, and supervised by the Federal Government; that it had no local significance; that, from the local standpoint, there was no need of grade separation; that the underpass was prescribed not upon consideration of local safety needs, but in conformity to general plans of the federal and state highway engineers as being a proper engineering feature in the construction of a nationwide system of highways for high-speed motor vehicle transportation; that the highway would be the greater source of danger; that, far from being a feeder of railway traffic, it would add to the motor competition from which the railway had already suffered severely, and that the tax burden upon the railway was already excessive as compared with that upon the owners of motor vehicles who would use the highway as it competitors.


(1) That the State Supreme Court erred in not considering whether the facts showed that the imposition was arbitrary and unreasonable. Pp. 294 U. S. 415, 294 U. S. 428.

(2) This question should be determined in the first instance by the state court. P. 294 U. S. 433.

(3) The state court should also decide whether findings of facts were adequately supported by evidence. Id.

5. When the scope of the police power is in question, the special knowledge of local conditions possessed by the state tribunals may be of great weight. Id.

167 Tenn. 470, 71 S.W.2d 678, reversed.

Appeal from a judgment in a suit of the railway company brought for the purpose of determining the constitutionality of an order, and an underlying statute, requiring it to pay one-half of the expense of obviating a grade crossing.

Page 294 U. S. 412

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