Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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N.C. Railroad files suit over railroad encroachments believed to heighten risk of train wreck

The North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) is suing the owner of a warehouse at 808 East Webb Street in Burlington over an alleged encroachment onto the railroad corridor that the NCRR says limits sight lines for trains coming through the area at high speed, creating the potential for a crash.

The NCRR filed a lawsuit in Alamance County civil superior just before the Thanksgiving holiday against DTG, Inc. of Alamance County, which owns the property at 808 East Webb Avenue, asking a judge to force the company to remove the encroachments in the railroad corridor.

The property identified in the suit consists of a 13,500-square foot leased warehouse built in 1940 and situated on 2.53 acres, according to Alamance County’s tax records.

The NCRR has owned approximately 739.5 acres of land in Alamance County, which once included the area known as “Company Shops,” since the mid-1800s, the complaint states.
However, the railroad sold several parcels over the years, including the property at issue along East Webb Avenue.

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The NCRR alleges that the defendant, DTG, Inc., “has installed a fence adjacent to the railroad track ballast”; has parked numerous junk vehicles adjacent to and along the west side of that fence; and has allowed trees and vegetation to overtake the fence line, “creating a danger of train strikes and adversely impacting drainage from the railroad tracks.” The complaint notes that those “encroachments” are located within 100 feet of the centerline of the railroad tracks.

“High speed Amtrak passenger trains are operated on this portion of the railroad tracks, and, at high speeds, the trains rock back and forth further creating a danger of tree strikes,” the complaint states. “The Encroachments also affect sight lines for trains operating in the area.”

The NCRR claims to have asked the owners of DTG, Inc. to remove the encroachments and to consider entering into an agreement that would allow DTG, Inc. to continue using some portion of the railroad corridor, but the defendant had not responded.

The NCRR is now seeking more than $25,000 in compensatory damages against DTG, Inc. under two alleged claims for relief, including encroachments that constitute a trespass upon property owned by the railroad and interference with easement rights.

The railroad is also asking a judge to enter an order declaring the NCRR as the “owner in fee simple absolute” (i.e., sole owner of the affected property), as well as a preliminary and permanent injunction that would force the defendant to not only remove the encroachments, but would prohibit any future use by DTG, Inc. of any portion of the property within the NCRR corridor.

The NCRR is being represented by the Ward and Smith law firm in Wilmington.

The defendant, DTG, Inc., had not filed a response by press time.

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