Investigation of Ownership and Maintenance Responsibilities for Structures Separating Highway and Railroad Traffic

Report No: 98-R38

Published in 1998

About the report:

One of the goals defined in Virginia Connections: Strategic Plan for Transportation is to "reduce or eliminate obsolete state laws governing transportation providers." In response to this goal, then Secretary of Transportation Robert Martinez established a Rail Issues Legislative Task Force and charged them with reviewing the laws and regulations governing railroads. The task force raised the issue of the maintenance responsibility for structures that carry highway traffic over railroads (overpasses) and structures that carry railroads over highway traffic (underpasses). There are 1,041 overpasses and underpasses in the Commonwealth. In general, the entity responsible for the traffic on a structure also owns and maintains it. In other words, overpasses are predominantly owned and maintained by the state or locality, and underpasses are predominantly owned and maintained by the railroad that uses them. Exceptions exist. According to the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) Structure & Bridge Division, 69 overpasses are maintained by a railroad (the responsibility for 11 of these is being transferred to VDOT), and 32 underpasses are maintained by VDOT or a municipality. The purpose of this study was to identify the issues, including the costs of improvements and maintenance, regarding the possible conveyance of overpass ownership and maintenance from the railroads to VDOT and underpass ownership and maintenance from VDOT to the railroads for the 90 structures under consideration. The intent of this study was not to provide recommendations to VDOT or the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) but rather to present the potential consequences to VDOT and affected jurisdictions of the various alternatives considered.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Stephen C. Brich

Last updated: December 15, 2023

Alert Icon

Please note that this file is not ADA compliant. Choose one of below options: