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Alexandria, Norfolk Southern To Square Off In Court

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By Michael Pope

An appeals court in Virginia is set to hear oral arguments today in a case that could have widespread consequences for the authority of local governments to regulate their own streets.

Railroad giant Norfolk Southern is set to square off with the city of Alexandria this morning in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. At issue is the city's ability to regulate when and how hazardous materials are transported on Alexandria's streets.

Lawyers for the city are set to argue that local jurisdictions have a traditional authority to regulate their own streets. Norfolk Southern will counter that federal laws governing railroads and hazardous materials preempt the city's powers. The original lawsuit was filed by the railroad after the city issued a permit limiting the hours of operation and the number of trucks that could use city streets each day, to transport liquid ethanol.

A decision by the three-judge panel could come as soon as two weeks or as late as six months.

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