Any railroad may construct and carry its tracks across, over, or under any road, railroad, canal, stream, or watercourse when it may be necessary in the construction thereof. In such cases, the railroad shall construct its railroad crossings so as to not unnecessarily impede the travel, transportation, or navigation upon the road, railroad, canal, stream, or watercourse so crossed. The railroad may change the channel of any stream or watercourse whenever it may be necessary in the location, construction, or use of its road if it does not change the general course of the stream or watercourse or materially impair its usefulness.
Any railroad may purchase and use real estate for a price to be agreed upon with the owners thereof and may acquire the same through the exercise of the power of eminent domain. The procedure to condemn property shall be exercised in the manner set forth in sections 76-704 to 76-724.
The owner, consignor, or consignee of any carload lots of grain, coal, merchandise, or other property in course of transportation over any railroad within the state, transporting the same for hire, may request in writing any agent of the operators of such railroad to weigh any such carloads of grain, coal, merchandise, or other property in course of transportation. Upon such a request being received, it shall become the duty of the operators of such railroad to weigh the car or cars designated in such written request, together with their contents, upon such track scale as may be designated in such written request, over which such car or cars in the regular course of transit will thereafter pass, and deliver to the person making such request a written certificate showing the name and number of the car so weighed, the date of the taking of such weight, and the place where weighed, with the number of pounds of gross and net weights, after deducting the tare marked on the car from such gross weight. The certificate so executed and delivered shall be admissible evidence against such railroad in any legal proceeding, thereafter instituted or then pending against any such railroad weighing and transporting the property contained in such car or cars, of all the facts stated in such certificate.
Wherever any carload lot of merchandise, coal, grain, or other property is delivered for transportation for hire to any railroad within this state, consigned to any person at a station on the line of the railroad or upon any other railroad within this state, where no track scale is located and maintained, and such car in the course of transit will not pass a track scale on the line of such connecting railroad, it shall immediately become the duty of such initial railroad to cause the same to be weighed in the manner required by section 74-548 on the track scale located nearest the station to which such car is consigned and to stamp upon the waybill for such car all of the matters required to be set out in the certificate provided for in such section. Where coal, grain, merchandise, or other property in carload lots is consigned to stations where track scales are located and the consignee requests the same to be weighed, the weights shall be taken, both gross and tare, with the car uncoupled, on such track scales at the point of destination.
Any railroad operating in this state and violating any of the provisions of sections 74-548 and 74-549 by neglecting or refusing to furnish weights as provided in section 74-549 shall upon conviction thereof be fined in the sum of one hundred dollars for each and every such violation. The fine shall be recovered by the state in an action in its name upon complaint of any owner, consignor, or consignee of the property which such railroad refuses to weigh, made before any court of competent jurisdiction.
Each railroad shall equip each of its track motor cars used during the period from sunset to sunrise with (1) an electric headlight of such construction either permanent or portable and with sufficient candlepower to render plainly visible at a distance of not less than three hundred feet in advance of such track motor car any track obstruction, landmark, warning sign, or grade crossing and (2) a red rear electric light of such construction and with sufficient candlepower as to be plainly visible at a distance of three hundred feet. Such track motor cars shall be equipped with a shield of sufficient width and height to afford reasonable protection to the employees transported by it, part of which shall be a windshield of transparent shatterproof material.
Any railroad which uses or permits to be used on its line in this state a track motor car in violation of section 74-592 shall be guilty of a Class V misdemeanor.
No member of a train crew, yard crew, or engine crew of a railroad shall be held personally responsible or found guilty of violating any state laws or any municipal ordinances regulating or intended to regulate the occupying or blocking of any street, road, or highway crossing-at-grade by trains or passenger or freight cars upon reasonable proof that the occupying or blocking of the street, road, or highway crossing-at-grade was necessary to comply with orders or instructions either written or oral of his or her employer or its officers or supervisory officials. This section shall not relieve the employer or railroad from any responsibility placed upon the employer or railroad by any such state laws or by such municipal ordinances. This section shall be supplemental to any other law.
Each railroad shall be responsible for the removal of all litter as defined in section 28-523 on property owned or leased by the railroad which is under a bridge, trestle, or similar structure.
No speed limitation ordinance which would directly affect the operations of an interstate railroad shall be valid or enforceable unless its adoption is in compliance with this section. Before the first reading of the proposed ordinance, each railroad the operations of which would be directly affected by the ordinance shall be given written notice by United States mail of the proposed ordinance and the date, time, and place of such reading. Such notice shall be given at least ten days prior to the reading. Each affected railroad shall have an opportunity to be heard at the first reading. After enactment, each railroad the operations of which would be directly affected shall be provided a written or printed copy of the ordinance by United States mail.
In any circumstances involving a railroad accident or the operation of a train in violation of state law or local ordinance, no engineer or other crew member of the train shall be required to furnish a motor vehicle operator's license to any state or local law enforcement officer, nor shall any citation involving the operation of a train be issued against the motor vehicle operator's license of the engineer or any other crew member of the train.
Within six months after the lines of the railroad or any part thereof is open, each railroad shall erect and thereafter maintain fences on the sides of its right-of-way, or the part thereof so open for use, suitable and sufficient to prevent cattle, horses, sheep, and hogs from getting on such right-of-way, except at the crossings of public roads and highways, and within the limits of towns, cities, and villages, with openings, gates, or bars at all the farm crossings of its tracks for the use of the proprietors of the lands adjoining such right-of-way. Each railroad shall also construct and maintain, at all road crossings, cattle guards suitable and sufficient to prevent cattle, horses, sheep, and hogs from getting onto such right-of-way.
So long as such fences and cattle guards are not made after the time prescribed in section 74-601 has elapsed and when such fences and guards, or any part thereof, are not in sufficiently good repair to accomplish the objects for which they are intended, such railroad and its agents shall be liable for any damage which is done by the agents, engines, or trains of any such railroad, or by the locomotives or trains of any other railroad permitted to run over or upon such tracks, to any cattle, horses, sheep, or hogs thereon. When such fences and guards have been fully and duly made and are kept in sufficient repair, such railroad shall not be liable for any damages, unless the damage arises from negligent or willful acts of the railroad or its agents.
Any person who owns land adjoining the right-of-way of any railroad and not within the limits of any town, village, or city who intends to enclose the land, or any part thereof, that adjoins such right-of-way with a fence may notify the railroad in writing of such intention and request the railroad to build a lawful fence as described in section 74-601 on the line between its railroad and the land intended to be enclosed. The notice shall specify two points on such line between which points the fence is requested to be erected and shall describe the land intended to be enclosed. The railroad shall, within six months after receiving such notice, cause the fence requested by such notice to be erected, and in case of a failure so to do, the party giving notice may cause such fence to be erected at a reasonable cost and collect such amount from the railroad.
Any railroad which fails to fence on both sides of its right-of-way against all livestock running at large at all points shall be absolutely liable to the owner of any livestock injured or killed by the railroad's agents or the agents of any other railroad which runs over and upon such right-of-way.
Whenever any horse, cow, or other domestic animal is injured on the right-of-way of any railroad, the trackwalkers and section personnel of the railroad shall care for the animal at once and report the facts to the nearest station agent. If the animal is injured by a train, such member of the train crew as is required by the railroad shall, upon arriving at the first communications facility, notify the person in charge of the track of the fact, and such person shall at once notify the railroad employee having charge of the section upon which the animal is injured who shall at once care for the animal. If any such animal is maimed beyond hope of recovery, such persons shall kill the animal at once. When the animal is not killed, the section official shall give immediate notice, when possible, of the condition of the animal to the owner or his or her agent who shall have the animal cared for at once. When immediate notice to the owner is not possible, the section official shall have the injured animal properly cared for at once. No act of the railroad, its employees or agents, or the owner of an injured animal pursuant to this section shall be held to be an admission of liability or responsibility on the part of the railroad for the injury of the animal nor a waiver or relinquishment by the owner of any right or claim to damages from the railroad. Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be guilty of a Class V misdemeanor.
In order to provide cover for wildlife, the vegetation other than noxious weeds within the fenced right-of-way of all railroads outside the corporate limits of any city or village in Nebraska shall not be destroyed, except that (1) such vegetation shall be destroyed from the space between points a distance of seven feet from the outside of each outermost rail each year between May 1 and August 15 or at such places as may be deemed necessary by the railroad for proper operation or maintenance and (2) the county board or board of supervisors of any county may, by written notice, direct any railroad to spray, mow, or otherwise treat specified portions of such fenced right-of-way to kill or destroy vegetation.
If any railroad neglects or refuses to cause its right-of-way to be mowed, sprayed, or otherwise treated as provided in section 74-608, the county board or board of supervisors in which county the right-of-way is located shall, after the time in which the railroad is required to act, cause the vegetation on the railroad right-of-way to be mowed, sprayed, or otherwise treated and the county may charge the railroad the reasonable cost thereof. The county clerk shall include such amounts in making the county tax list as an assessment against such railroad, and the assessment shall be collected in the same manner and at the same time as other taxes.
It shall be unlawful for anyone to hunt upon the fenced right-of-way of any railroad in Nebraska without permission of the owner or responsible authority. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.
The Department of Labor is hereby authorized to promulgate and enforce reasonable rules and regulations after due notice and hearing for the safety, sanitation, shelter, and health of railroad maintenance-of-way employees, as far as shelter and drinking water for human consumption pertain to the railroad maintenance-of-way employees.
An adequate supply of cool, sanitary water, for drinking purposes, shall be made available for use of all employees of railroads. Sanitary containers, equipped with a faucet or other dispenser, and individual paper drinking cups shall be furnished by the railroad.
In the event of any dispute or disagreement between any employee and any employer as to the intent, meaning, and interpretation of any or all of the rules adopted in accordance with section 74-915, the Department of Labor shall give notice, to the parties interested, of a date for hearing thereon. After hearing the testimony of all parties, it shall enter an order in accordance therewith.
Each railroad which operates in this state shall provide sanitary drinking water and toilet facilities on all road locomotives and waycars owned by such railroad when ordered, after investigation, notice, and hearing, by the Public Service Commission. The commission shall specify the type of facilities that shall be installed on each road locomotive and waycar placed in service after January 1, 1971. This section shall not prevent any railroad from operating equipment not in conformity with this section for less than fifty miles. Any railroad which violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars.
Each railroad in this state shall keep and maintain the margins alongside its tracks where railroad employees are required to walk in the course of their duties reasonably free from debris and vegetation which affect the safety of such employees while working. The Public Service Commission shall enforce and prosecute any violation of this section.
Any person who is intoxicated while in charge of a locomotive running upon the track of any railroad or while acting as the conductor of a car or train of cars on any railroad shall be guilty of a Class I misdemeanor.
It is declared to be the policy of this state to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries caused by collisions between motor vehicles and railroad trains; to eliminate as far as possible unnecessary conflicts between railroad transportation and highway transportation; to improve the movement of both rail and highway traffic by eliminating grade crossings; and to assist in relocation of railroad facilities that bisect the central portions of municipalities, thus hampering the growth of both the municipality and the railroad services; the effect of such policies being to benefit and enhance the community as a whole. These policies shall not be implemented in any manner without just compensation to all damaged parties, including both railroads and shippers, and, where appropriate, alternate routes for affected railroads.
Whenever, in a county in which is located a city or cities of the primary or first class, it will be conducive to the public health, safety, convenience, or welfare (1) to move, relocate, or remove any railroad tracks or railroad right-of-way, including improvements, (2) to relocate or remove any railroad yard, switch yard, or switch tracks, (3) to change, construct, eliminate, or reconstruct, including the use of protective devices of any kind or nature, any highway or street crossing of a railroad property, (4) to move, construct, or reconstruct any railroad bridge, viaduct, or subway, (5) to acquire, negotiate, sell, or eliminate any joint trackage operating rights or any rights of other individuals or entities over, in, or on any railroad tracks, rights-of-way, switch yards, or switch tracks, or (6) to do any two or more of the activities listed in subdivisions (1) through (5) of this section, a special district to be known as a railroad transportation safety district may be formed and may proceed, as provided in sections 74-1301 to 74-1308, for the purpose of inaugurating, developing, and negotiating for programs which may involve the constructing, reconstructing, leasing, maintaining, or selling of such work or works of public transportation improvement.
Such a district shall be formed by the adoption of a resolution of formation, after a finding that such district is conducive to the public health, safety, convenience, or welfare, by the city council of the city or cities and by the county commissioners of any county in which such city or cities are located. Such district shall then come into existence in accordance with the date set in the resolutions of formation.
(1) If a district is formed which includes only one city, such district shall be governed by a board of directors made up of three members from the city council of such city adopting such resolution, which members shall be designated by such council, and of three members from the county commissioners of such county adopting such resolution, which members shall be designated by the county board.
(2) If a district is formed which has two or more cities of the primary or first class, such district shall be governed by a board of directors made up of three members from each city council adopting such resolution, which members shall be designated by such council, and of three members from the county commissioners of such county adopting such resolution which members shall be designated by the county board. When participating in the district's affairs, the members representing the cities shall each have one vote and the members representing the county shall each have one vote for each city represented, so that the total number of votes of members of the cities is equal to the total number of votes of members of the county.
(3) In each instance such designated individual shall be an elected member of such body. No additional compensation shall be paid to such directors, but such directors shall be paid their actual expenses while engaged in the business of the district. Such directors shall be appointed annually by the respective bodies, or when a vacancy shall earlier occur.
(1) Such district shall have the power, right, and authority after notice and public hearing (a) to purchase within or without such county railroad rights-of-way including the improvements, (b) to purchase land not presently owned or used by any railroad company for additional right-of-way or additional switch or yard space where changes of routes or construction of interconnections or of new railroad yards is necessary or desirable, and (c) to acquire through the exercise of the power of eminent domain, but only upon the vote of the directors of such district, which vote shall require a five-sixths majority in districts governed pursuant to subsection (1) of section 74-1304 and a two-thirds majority in districts governed pursuant to subsection (2) of section 74-1304, and the written approval by each railroad involved in the contemplated relocation project, such land as set forth in subdivision (1)(b) of this section for the purposes set forth in such subdivision, which acquisition shall follow the procedures set forth in sections 76-704 to 76-724.
Such land and improvements as may be acquired for the purpose of the removal of railroad trackage may be disposed of by conveying the same for reasonable consideration to a governmental entity for public purposes or by sale of the same as set forth in this section. Such new railroad rights-of-way, switches, and yards as may be obtained and constructed may be leased for use to railroads or may be sold to such railroads or may be traded to such railroads for other property belonging to such railroads.
Such property, real or personal, shall be sold in such manner and under such terms and conditions as the board shall deem in the best interests of the district, except that if the fair market value exceeds five thousand dollars, it may only be sold after due notice and hearing by such board at a regular meeting upon the vote of a majority of such board.
(2) The board of directors of such district shall also have the right and authority to enter into contracts or other arrangements with the United States Government or its departments, any persons, railroads, corporations, political subdivisions, public and municipal corporations, and the state government of this state, making full use of the Interlocal Cooperation Act and the Joint Public Agency Act, for (a) cooperation or assistance in the design, construction, maintenance, sale, or lease of the works of the district, (b) making surveys and investigations or reports in relation to the objectives of the district, (c) cooperation or assistance in obtaining the construction, maintenance, or operation of a work or works of public improvement within the district for any of the purposes described in section 74-1302, (d) receiving the title or possession, or both, of any property and funds connected directly or indirectly with the purposes described in section 74-1302, (e) assuming, and becoming bound by, any obligations, promises, or covenants so connected, or (f) holding and saving the United States or others free from damages resulting from any construction works that may be undertaken.
(3) Prior to implementing any plans affecting matters of planning by or the interests of any planning commission located within such district, the interests of any municipality, county or state educational institution or school district a portion of which lies within such district, any municipal county, any agricultural society, any airport authority, any natural resources district, or any other similar political entity, and any railroads, shippers, and affected property owners, the board shall consult with and submit such plans to such entities as may be concerned for study, review, comment, and suggestion. Approval of any state or federal regulatory agency shall be secured, when necessary, prior to implementing any of the provisions contained in sections 74-1301 to 74-1308 and the district shall comply with the requirements of any such agency.
(4) In developing plans for specific projects, to determine the feasibility of implementing the purposes of sections 74-1301 to 74-1308, the district shall examine the costs and benefits to the community or communities, the railroads, and the highway users and shall calculate the costs and benefits by consideration being given but not limited to loss of revenue, increased operating costs, costs of installation, acquisition of real and personal property, relocation, signalization, communication, utilities, avoidance of hazards, creation of transportation efficiencies, resolving conflicts of land use, and any other ancillary or peripheral costs or benefits.
Before July 1 of each calendar year, the board of directors shall prepare an itemized budget of funds needed for the next fiscal year which are necessary to carry out the authorities granted under sections 74-1302, 74-1303, and 74-1305. The board of directors shall transmit such budget to the county board. The county board shall levy a tax sufficient to produce the amount of funds requested but not to exceed two and six-tenths cents on each one hundred dollars upon the taxable value of all taxable property in the county subject to section 77-3443. Such levy shall be in addition to all other levies authorized or limited by law. The tax so levied shall be collected in the same manner as other property taxes, and the proceeds therefrom shall be kept in a separate account identified by the official name of the transportation district. The county treasurer shall transfer such funds to the district as requested by the board of directors.
For carrying out the purposes and powers set forth in sections 74-1302, 74-1303, and 74-1305, including paying the cost thereof, the district may: (1) Borrow money and issue its negotiable general obligation bonds upon such terms and conditions as the board of directors may determine and without a vote of the electors; (2) issue warrants to contractors and others furnishing services or materials or in satisfaction of other obligations created under sections 74-1302, 74-1303, and 74-1305, such warrants to be issued in such amounts and on such terms and conditions as the board shall determine, and to be redeemed and paid upon the sale of bonds or receipt of other funds available for such purpose; and (3) establish a sinking fund for the payment of such bonds as may be issued under this section.
(1) The board of directors shall annually elect a president, vice president, secretary, and such other officers as may be necessary. The board shall cause to be kept accurate minutes of its meetings and accurate records and books of account, conforming to approved methods of bookkeeping, clearly setting out and reflecting the entire operation, management, and business of the district, which shall be kept at the principal place of business of the district. All books, papers, and vouchers shall be subject to public inspection at reasonable hours, and the district shall be subject to the Open Meetings Act.
(2) The treasurer of such district shall be the treasurer of the county of such district and shall annually make a detailed report in writing of all receipts and disbursements. The report shall contain a statement of (a) the funds on hand belonging to the district, (b) the amount, if any, in the hands of the county treasurer, (c) all money received during the preceding year from all sources, and (d) all items of disbursement during such year and the purposes for which the same have been paid out, including all compensation paid to officers of the district and all other expenses of administration. The report shall be verified under oath. A copy of the same shall be filed annually with the county clerk of the county.
(3) Such officers and employees as may be designated by the board of directors shall furnish bonds in such amounts as may be fixed by the board of directors. Such bonds shall be conditioned upon the faithful performance of the duties of each such officer or employee and the proper accounting for all funds or property coming into the hands of each such officer or employee. Such bonds shall (a) run to the district, (b) be signed by a surety or sureties to be approved by the county clerk of the county, and (c) be filed and recorded in the office of such county clerk.
(4) If any such treasurer fails or neglects to make out the report or file the same with the county clerk as required by subsection (2) of this section, if any officer of such district neglects or refuses to submit for inspection any records or papers of such district upon demand of any person interested, or if any person otherwise neglects to perform any duties imposed upon him or her by this section, he or she shall be guilty of a Class V misdemeanor.
The department shall have authority to determine that (1) a railroad crossing shall be eliminated, (2) automatic railroad grade crossing protection devices shall be installed, modified, or improved, (3) an overpass or underpass is needed at a railroad crossing, or (4) other measures are necessary to improve public safety at railroad crossings.
The department shall establish and update, as needed, a priority list for improving the safety of railroad crossings in Nebraska. The list shall identify all crossings in need of safety improvements and the relative order of need.
In establishing the priority list under section 74-1312, the department shall consult with governmental subdivisions to determine where railroad crossing safety measures are needed. The department shall consider the accident history of the crossing, the amount of traffic at the crossing, traffic speed limits, population density, visibility of the crossing, any information provided by notices filed with the commission under section 74-1316, the results of any investigations conducted by the Public Service Commission under section 75-426, and similar factors.
When any political subdivision of this state determines that public safety will be improved by eliminating a crossing, by the installation, substantial modification, or improvement of automatic railroad grade crossing protection, or by construction of an overpass or underpass where a street, road, or highway intersects with a line of the railroad company within its jurisdiction, and demand is made upon the railroad company concerned, the political subdivision shall inform the Department of Roads of such fact.
Upon receiving such notice, or upon its own determination, the Department of Roads shall forthwith examine the crossing concerned, in conjunction with representatives of the political subdivision, to determine whether the position of such crossing on the priority list established under section 74-1312 should be adjusted.
The department shall utilize any federal funds available in the construction of railroad grade crossing protection devices or other safety improvements. If funds are needed to match any federal funds the political subdivision in which the crossing is located shall contribute half of the matching funds needed but shall not be required to provide more than five percent of the total cost. If it is determined by the department that a railroad crossing safety project involving federal funds will result in ascertainable benefits to the railroad such railroad may be required to provide up to five percent of the total cost of the project. The balance of any matching funds needed shall be paid by the department from the Grade Crossing Protection Fund.
When an accident occurs at any railroad crossing within the State of Nebraska which results in serious personal injury or loss of human life, the corporation operating the railroad which was involved in the accident shall within one day thereafter notify the department that an accident has occurred and shall promptly furnish to the department a copy of the same notice that it is required to furnish to the Nebraska Public Service Commission and the Federal Railroad Administration.
In order to promote public safety at the intersection of railroad lines and all classes of highways, there is hereby created a special fund known as the Grade Crossing Protection Fund which shall be established in the state treasury to be used in furnishing financial assistance in the improvement of the safety of railroad grade crossings in this state, including the elimination of such crossings, the construction, substantial modification, or improvement of and the maintenance of automatic crossing protection at such grade crossings, and the construction and maintenance of overpasses and underpasses at railroad crossings. Any money in the fund available for investment shall be invested by the state investment officer pursuant to the Nebraska Capital Expansion Act and the Nebraska State Funds Investment Act.
The Department of Roads is hereby empowered to administer the funds deposited in the Grade Crossing Protection Fund as follows:
(1) If the department and the political subdivision with jurisdiction over the crossing agree that a grade crossing should be eliminated by closing the street, road, or highway, the political subdivision making such closing shall receive five thousand dollars from the fund and five thousand dollars from the railroad involved and the actual cost of closure not to exceed twelve thousand dollars from the fund. If pursuant to section 74-1305 it is agreed by the department and the political subdivision that such crossing should be eliminated by the removal of such rail line, the political subdivision paying for such removal, if any, shall receive two thousand dollars or the actual cost thereof not to exceed twelve thousand dollars from the fund;
(2) Except as otherwise provided in section 74-1315, in order to facilitate and protect the interest of the public as a whole and to compensate for the statewide use of such crossings by the public, the department shall pay ninety-five percent of the cost of overpasses, underpasses, and automatic railroad grade crossing protection measures or devices from the fund for all such projects in which an agreement among the department, the railroad, and the political subdivision is executed on or after May 24, 1979, and the balance of the cost shall be borne by the political subdivision, except that in any county in which a railroad transportation safety district has been formed, such balance shall be borne entirely by the political subdivision. For all such projects in which an agreement among the department, the railroad, and the political subdivision was executed prior to May 24, 1979, the costs shall continue to be borne in the same manner as they were prior to such date;
(3) It shall be the sole responsibility of the railroad company involved to maintain all automatic railroad grade crossing protection devices existing in this state;
(4) The department shall allocate the amount to be borne by the fund for the cost of construction, installation, or substantial modification or improvement of the automatic devices for the protection of the railroad grade crossing concerned under this section and section 74-1317; and
(5) The department shall enter into and enforce agreements involving the fund and the supervision of the construction, installation, substantial modification or improvement, and maintenance of such overpasses, underpasses, and automatic safety devices for which any part of the cost is borne from the fund and the auditing and collection of the bills covering the cost thereof. The department is further authorized to enter into such contracts with any railroad companies and political subdivisions affected which are necessary to carry out this section and section 74-1317.
Whenever a railroad line is abandoned, the Department of Roads may remove grade crossing protection devices therefrom to protect the state's investment therein.
(1) There is hereby levied an excise tax on each railroad transporting freight in the State of Nebraska. Such tax shall be levied at the rate of seven and one-half cents for each train mile operated by such railroad in the state and one hundred dollars for each public grade crossing on the line of such railroad in the state. Such tax shall be independent of any assessment of costs for benefits received by the railroad from projects for the construction, rehabilitation, relocation, or modification of railroad grade separation facilities. The Department of Revenue shall collect the tax due pursuant to this section from each railroad transporting freight within the state.
(2) On each March 1, each such railroad shall submit to the Department of Revenue a report of its total train miles operated within the state during the previous January 1 through December 31 and the number of public grade crossings on its line in the state at the close of the previous year. All taxes shall be due on the date of reporting and shall be delinquent if not paid on a quarterly basis on April 1 and each quarter thereafter. Delinquent quarterly payments shall draw interest at the rate provided for in section 45-104.02, as such rate may from time to time be adjusted.
(3) As used in this section, train mile shall mean each mile traveled by a train in this state regardless of the number of cars in such train.
All revenue derived from the tax levied pursuant to section 74-1320, together with such other funds as may be appropriated by the state for the same purposes, shall be placed in the Grade Crossing Protection Fund and may be allocated and expended in the same manner as other money in such fund for the purpose of constructing, rehabilitating, relocating, or modifying railroad grade separation facilities.
Failure to file a report required by section 74-1320, filing such report late, failure to pay taxes due, or underpayment of such taxes shall result in a penalty of five percent of the amount due being imposed for each month the report is overdue or the payment is delinquent.
(1) Unless otherwise provided by city or village ordinance, the Public Service Commission, upon complaint or on its own motion, as to the crossing which is the subject of the complaint or motion, may direct that at such crossing any railroad car that is stored or parked on a railroad track which may be obstructing or obscuring the traveling public's view of any oncoming train be stored or parked at a minimum distance from the crossing of such railroad and public road. The minimum distance shall be that deemed by the commission to be reasonable and necessary to provide a sight distance at the crossing adequate to protect the safety of the traveling public, but in no instance shall any person who is authorized to control the movement of such railroad car or cars within such distance be prevented from reasonably conducting his or her business.
(2) Any company, its officers, agents, or employees, or any other person subject to subsection (1) of this section who fails, neglects, or refuses to promptly comply with an order of the commission issued under this section shall be guilty of a Class IV misdemeanor, but shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars for each offense. Each day of such neglect, refusal, or failure shall constitute a separate offense.
The Legislature hereby recognizes that the State of Nebraska leads the nation in the average number of highway-rail grade crossings per mile and that the State of Nebraska is traversed by a rail corridor that leads the nation in density of train traffic, in addition to other rail corridors in the state that also experience high levels of traffic. The Legislature further recognizes that these factors combine to create a serious and growing threat to public safety which must be addressed in a comprehensive manner that reflects the input and interests of local communities, the general motoring public, commercial highway users, and shippers of agricultural and other types of commodities who rely on rail transportation for efficient, timely transport of their goods.
It is the intent of the Legislature that any state role regarding highway-rail grade crossings, including public safety, Operation Lifesaver, maintenance, design, consolidation, separation, signalization, improvement, or relocation, be consolidated under one agency.
Any person who operates a railroad in the State of Nebraska shall construct all bridges on its railway so that each bridge over a running stream in this state has an opening below high water line the area of which is sufficient to allow the free and unobstructed passage of the water of such running stream at extreme high water state. If in the case of any given bridge satisfactory proof is made to the Department of Roads that the dimensions prescribed in this section are greater than are necessary to permit the unimpeded passage of the water under such bridge at high water, the department may authorize construction of the bridge with dimensions less than those prescribed in this section. Each railroad shall maintain and keep in good repair all bridges and abutments which the railroad constructs to enable its tracks to pass over or under any turnpike, road, canal, watercourse, or other way. Any operator of a railroad in this state who violates any of the provisions of this section or who permits any such violation on the part of any employee shall be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.
The Department of Roads shall have jurisdiction over all crossings outside of incorporated villages, towns, and cities, both public and private, across, over, or under all railroads in the state, except as provided in sections 74-1338 to 74-1340, and shall adopt and promulgate such rules and regulations for the construction, repair, and maintenance of the crossings as the department deems adequate and sufficient for the protection and necessity of the public.
The owner of any railroad tracks which are crossed by a public road shall make and keep in good repair good and sufficient crossings for such road over its tracks, including all the grading, bridges, ditches, and culverts that may be necessary within its right-of-way. Such crossings shall be not less than twenty feet wide and shall be solidly constructed with no openings or filled spaces except such as are necessary for the track. The railroad crossings shall be made of durable material equal to the height of the railroad track. The Department of Roads may, upon proper investigation and hearing, impose additional reasonable requirements as the circumstances may warrant.
(1) Wherever any railroad track crosses any public road in a cut, on a curve or side hill, in timber lands, near buildings, or near any obstruction of view from the road, the Department of Roads shall direct such precautions to be taken as it deems necessary for the safety of the traveling public. Each railroad carrier shall also provide and maintain such gates, crossings, signs, signals, alarm bells, and warning personnel as the department directs. The department may direct the placement of special signs where the physical conditions of any crossing warrant such action.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (3) of this section, any public railroad crossing without gates, signals, alarm bells, or warning personnel located within one-quarter mile from a public railroad crossing with gates, signals, alarm bells, or warning personnel shall be closed unless it is the only railroad crossing which provides access to property.
(3) An interested party may object to an action taken under subsection (2) of this section only if a written request is submitted to the Department of Roads by a professional engineer licensed to practice in the State of Nebraska. The engineer shall state in writing that the engineer is familiar with the requirements in this section and with all relevant aspects of the railroad crossing. The engineer shall also provide a detailed explanation of why subsection (2) of this section should not apply to the railroad crossing in question and a statement that the railroad crossing corridor has been examined by the engineer and the engineer believes that the railroad crossing will be safe as designed. Such a written request shall exempt a railroad crossing from being closed under subsection (2) of this section.
Whenever any person owns land on both sides of the right-of-way of any railroad, such railroad shall provide and keep in repair at least one adequate means for such landowner to cross the right-of-way. Any interested landowner with land on both sides of the right-of-way of any railroad may file written complaint with the Department of Roads against any such railroad that the crossing is not adequate or is unsafe and dangerous to the life and property of those who use it, and the department thereupon shall make such investigation, hold such hearing, and issue such orders as it deems necessary, proper, and adequate. If circumstances warrant, the department may require overhead, underground, or grade crossings and wing fences at underground crossings or may require existing crossings to be relocated so as to be safe to those who use them, but when a special crossing involves an expenditure of more than one thousand five hundred dollars, the landowner shall bear one-half the expenses in excess of one thousand five hundred dollars.
(1) Whenever a complaint is filed in writing with the Department of Roads by the duly authorized officers of any incorporated village or city or by the owner or operator of any railroad track, relative to any crossing within the affected village or city, praying for relief from the matters complained of, the department shall hold a hearing and shall make such order as the facts warrant. The findings of the department, subject to the right of appeal, shall be binding on the parties to the suit.
(2) The department shall adopt and promulgate rules and regulations for the construction, repair, and maintenance of all crossings, both public and private, across, over, and under all railroads within the corporate limits of any incorporated village or city. The rules and regulations shall be substantially the same as the rules and regulations under section 74-1332.
Whenever railroad tracks cross a public highway at grade, outside of incorporated cities and villages, the owner of the railroad tracks and the county board of the county in which such crossing is located may agree upon any change, alteration, or construction of any crossing as will promote the public convenience or safety, and they may also agree upon the relocation of any highway so as to eliminate such crossings entirely or so as to carry them over or under such railroad and upon the apportionment of the expenses incident to any such change, alteration, relocation, or construction between the owner of the railroad tracks and the county or other public authority in interest.
If the owner of the railroad track and the county board or other public authority in interest fail to agree upon any of the matters or things mentioned in section 74-1337, either the owner or the county board or other public authority in interest, in the name of the county or other public authority in interest, may file an application with the Department of Roads, setting forth such fact together with a statement of the change, alteration, relocation, or construction it wants, the estimated cost thereof, and such other facts as may be relevant and asking the department to enter an order directing that the change, alteration, relocation, or construction be made. The department shall proceed to hear the application in the manner provided by law, and if it finds that the application should be granted, it shall enter an order accordingly, designating in the order what portion of the expense of complying with the order shall be paid by the railroad carrier and what portion shall be paid by the county or other public authority in interest, if any.
The county board or other public authority in interest may carry out any such agreement and may establish, vacate, or relocate any public road so as to comply with any such agreement. The procedure shall be that provided by sections 39-1701 to 39-1731, insofar as the same is applicable, but no petition shall be necessary or required.
When the owner of railroad tracks fails, neglects, or refuses promptly to comply with any order of the Department of Roads issued under sections 74-1332 to 74-1339 or fails, refuses, or neglects to comply with such sections after the department has issued an order, the owner shall be guilty of a Class V misdemeanor and shall be fined in any sum not more than one hundred dollars for each such offense. Each week of such neglect, refusal, or failure shall constitute a separate offense.
The Department of Roads, which possesses the requisite engineering expertise, highway and rail planning function, and highway safety mission and is the repository for state and federal funding for both rail and highway projects, shall be the agency responsible for grade crossing safety.
(1) The Department of Roads shall adopt and promulgate rules and regulations establishing a comprehensive public safety program to deal with problems associated with public and private highway-rail grade crossings. In designing such a program, the department shall establish a process for assessing the risk to the public from particular grade crossings and for reducing or eliminating such risk in a cost-effective and timely manner. The department shall actively solicit input from the public and from representatives of county and municipal governments, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and any other individuals or entities with an interest in grade crossing safety.
(2) The grade crossing safety assessment process may include the following factors:
(a) Volume of trains;
(b) Volume of motor vehicles, including character, function, and type of vehicular traffic through the crossing;
(c) Number of tracks at the crossing;
(d) Geometry of the crossing, including acute angles;
(e) Sight-distance restrictions, if any;
(f) Train and motor vehicle speed;
(g) Accident history;
(h) Character of proximate road network, including distance and travel time to adjacent crossings;
(i) Frequency and duration of roadway blockage by trains, including citation history;
(j) Emergency response routes, including alternatives;
(k) Economic impact of crossing;
(l) Current and foreseeable development in the vicinity of the crossing; and
(m) Location of schools and hospitals.
The Department of Roads shall establish the grade crossing safety assessment process no later than twelve months after September 13, 1997, and shall recommend to the Legislature no later than eighteen months after September 13, 1997, an equitable formula for funding grade crossing risk abatement.
(1) If the governing body of a political subdivision determines that it is necessary or beneficial for the vitality of such political subdivision to expend local tax funds for rehabilitation or improvement of a light-density rail line or rail facility construction, including the issuance of bonds, the governing body shall by resolution place the proposition for such expenditure or bond issue on the general or primary election ballot or in odd-numbered years only call for a special election in such political subdivision for the purpose of approving such expenditure of local tax funds.
(2) The resolution calling for the election and the election notice shall show the proposed purpose for which such local tax funds will be expended and the amount of money sought.
(3) Notice of the election shall state the date the election is to be held and the hours the polls will be open. Such notice shall be published in a newspaper that is published in or of general circulation in such political subdivision at least once each week for three weeks prior to such election. If no such newspaper exists, notice shall be posted in at least three public places in the political subdivision for at least three weeks prior to such election.
(4) The proposition appearing on the ballot in any election shall state the purpose for which such local tax funds will be spent, the amount of local tax funds to be so expended, and the source from which the revenue will be raised. Such proposition shall be adopted if approved by a majority of those voting in such election.
(5) If a special election is called, the governing body shall prescribe the form of the ballot to be used.
(6) For purposes of this section:
(a) Facility means the track, ties, roadbed, and related structures, including terminals, team tracks and appurtenances, bridges, tunnels, and other structures used or usable for rail service operations;
(b) Light-density rail line means any rail line classified as a light-density line by the United States Department of Transportation;
(c) Rail facility construction means the construction of rail or rail-related facilities, including new connections between two or more existing lines, intermodal freight terminals, sidings, and relocation of existing lines, for the purpose of improving the quality and efficiency of rail freight service; and
(d) Rehabilitation or improvement means replacing, repairing, or upgrading, to the extent necessary to permit adequate and efficient rail freight service, facilities needed to provide service on a rail line.
Section 1. MIDWEST INTERSTATE PASSENGER RAIL COMPACT
The contracting states solemnly agree:
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The purposes of this compact are, through joint or cooperative action:
(1) to promote development and implementation of improvements to intercity passenger rail service in the Midwest;
(2) to coordinate interaction among Midwestern state elected officials and their designees on passenger rail issues;
(3) to promote development and implementation of long-range plans for high-speed rail passenger service in the Midwest and among other regions of the United States;
(4) to work with the public and private sectors at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure coordination among the various entities having an interest in passenger rail service and to promote Midwestern interests regarding passenger rail; and
(5) to support efforts of transportation agencies involved in developing and implementing passenger rail service in the Midwest.
ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMISSION
To further the purposes of the compact, a commission is created to carry out the duties specified in this compact.
The manner of appointment of commission members, terms of office consistent with the terms of this compact, provisions for removal and suspension, and manner of appointment to fill vacancies shall be determined by each member state pursuant to its laws, but each commissioner shall be a resident of the state of appointment. Commission members shall serve without compensation from the commission. The commission shall consist of four resident members of each state as follows: The Governor or the Governor's designee who shall serve during the tenure of office of the Governor, or until a successor is named; one member of the private sector who shall be appointed by the Governor and shall serve during the tenure of office of the Governor, or until a successor is named; and two legislators, one from each legislative chamber (or two legislators from any unicameral legislature), who shall serve two-year terms, or until successors are appointed, and who shall be appointed by the appropriate appointing authority in each legislative chamber (or unicameral legislature). All vacancies shall be filled in accordance with the laws of the appointing states. Any commissioner appointed to fill a vacancy shall serve until the end of the incomplete term. Each member state shall have equal voting privileges, as determined by the commission bylaws.
POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE COMMISSION
The duties of the commission are to:
(1) Advocate for the funding and authorization necessary to make passenger rail improvements a reality for the region;
(2) Identify and seek to develop ways that states can form partnerships, including with rail industry and labor, to implement improved passenger rail in the region;
(3) Seek development of a long-term, interstate plan for high-speed rail passenger service implementation;
(4) Cooperate with other agencies, regions, and entities to ensure that the Midwest is adequately represented and integrated into national plans for passenger rail development;
(5) Adopt bylaws governing the activities and procedures of the commission and addressing, among other subjects: Powers and duties of officers, voting rights of commission members, voting procedures, commission business, and any other purposes necessary to fulfill the duties of the commission;
(6) Expend such funds as required to carry out the powers and duties of the commission; and
(7) Report on the activities of the commission to the legislatures and Governor of the member states on an annual basis.
In addition to its exercise of these duties, the commission is empowered to:
(1) Provide multistate advocacy necessary to implement passenger rail systems or plans, as approved by the commission;
(2) Work with local elected officials, economic development planning organizations, and similar entities to raise the visibility of passenger rail service benefits and needs;
(3) Educate other state officials, federal agencies, other elected officials and the public on the advantages of passenger rail as an integral part of an intermodal transportation system in the region;
(4) Work with federal agency officials and members of Congress to ensure the funding and authorization necessary to develop a long-term, interstate plan for high-speed rail passenger service implementation;
(5) Make recommendations to member states;
(6) If requested by each state participating in a particular project and under the terms of a formal agreement approved by the participating states and the commission, implement or provide oversight for specific rail projects;
(7) Establish an office and hire staff as necessary;
(8) Contract for or provide services;
(9) Assess dues, in accordance with the terms of this compact;
(10) Conduct research; and
(11) Establish committees.
The commission shall annually elect from among its members a chairperson, a vice-chairperson who shall not be a resident of the state represented by the chairperson, and others as approved in the commission bylaws. The officers shall perform such functions and exercise such powers as are specified in the commission bylaws.
MEETINGS AND COMMISSION ADMINISTRATION
The commission shall meet at least once in each calendar year, and at such other times as may be determined by the commission. Commission business shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures and voting rights specified in the bylaws.
Except as otherwise provided for, the monies necessary to finance the general operations of the commission in carrying forth its duties, responsibilities, and powers as stated herein shall be appropriated to the commission by the member states, when authorized by the respective legislatures, by equal apportionment among the member states. Nothing in this compact shall be construed to commit a member state to participate in financing a rail project except as provided by law of a member state.
The commission may accept, for any of its purposes and functions, donations, gifts, grants, and appropriations of money, equipment, supplies, materials, and services from the federal government, from any member state or from any department, agency, or municipality thereof, or from any institution, person, firm, or corporation. All expenses incurred by the commission in executing the duties imposed upon it by this compact shall be paid by the commission out of the funds available to it. The commission shall not issue any debt instrument. The commission shall submit to the officer designated by the laws of each member state, periodically as required by the laws of each member state, a budget of its actual past, and estimated future expenditures.
ENACTMENT, EFFECTIVE DATE, AND AMENDMENTS
The states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin are eligible to join this compact. Upon approval of the commission, according to its bylaws, other states may also be declared eligible to join the compact. As to any eligible party state, this compact shall become effective when its legislature shall have enacted the same into law; provided that it shall not become initially effective until enacted into law by any three (3) party states incorporating the provisions of this compact into the laws of such states. Amendments to the compact shall become effective upon their enactment by the legislatures of all member states.
WITHDRAWAL, DEFAULT, AND TERMINATION
Withdrawal from this compact shall be by enactment of a statute repealing the same and shall take effect one year after the effective date of such statute. A withdrawing state shall be liable for any obligations which it may have incurred prior to the effective date of withdrawal.
If any member state shall at any time default in the performance of any of its obligations, assumed or imposed, in accordance with the provisions of this compact, all rights, privileges, and benefits conferred by this compact or agreements hereunder shall be suspended from the effective date of such default as fixed by the commission, and the commission shall stipulate the conditions and maximum time for compliance under which the defaulting state may resume its regular status. Unless such default shall be remedied under the stipulations and within the time period set forth by the commission, this compact may be terminated with respect to such defaulting state by affirmative vote of a majority of the other commission members. Any such defaulting state may be reinstated, upon vote of the commission, by performing all acts and obligations as stipulated by the commission.
CONSTRUCTION AND SEVERABILITY
The provisions of this compact entered into hereunder shall be severable and if any phrase, clause, sentence, or provision of this compact is declared to be contrary to the constitution of any member state or of the United States or the applicability thereof to any government, agency, person, or circumstance is held invalid, the validity of the remainder of this compact and the applicability thereof to any government, agency, person, or circumstance shall not be affected hereby. If this compact entered into hereunder shall be held contrary to the constitution of any member state, the compact shall remain in full force and effect as to the remaining states and in full force and effect as to the state affected as to all severable matters. The provisions of this compact entered into pursuant hereto shall be liberally construed to effectuate the purposes thereof.
The State of Nebraska shall not participate in any rail project or appropriate funds for any rail project proposed by the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact unless the specific project is authorized by the enactment of a legislative bill. For purposes of this section, rail project includes the planning phase of such a project.
The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact Cash Fund is created and shall consist of money appropriated by the Legislature and gifts, grants, or bequests from any source, including federal, state, public, and private sources. The money shall be used to carry out passenger rail initiatives under the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. Any money in the fund available for investment shall be invested by the state investment officer pursuant to the Nebraska Capital Expansion Act and the Nebraska State Funds Investment Act.