A-117-11 Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Intermodal Properties, LLC (070240) ( 2013 )


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  •                                                        SYLLABUS
    
    (This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the
    convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the
    interest of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized.)
    
                Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Intermodal Properties, LLC (A-117-11) (070240)
    
    Argued May 14, 2013 -- Decided August 6, 2013
    
    HOENS, J., writing for a unanimous Court.
    
             In this appeal, the Court considers two statutory provisions relating to the eminent domain power vested in
    public utilities and railroads: (1) the limitation in N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7 that a public utility’s taking of private property
    be “not incompatible with the public interest”; and (2) the requirement in N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1 that a railroad may
    only take property to the extent that the “exigencies of business may demand.”
    
              Plaintiff Norfolk Southern Railway Company owns and operates Croxton Yard, a large intermodal freight
    facility in Secaucus, New Jersey. At Croxton, which is open nearly around the clock, freight containers are
    transferred between trains and tractor-trailer trucks for delivery to final destinations. Containers are off-loaded from
    trucks or trains and placed in parking spaces prior to being transferred to the next transportation modality. The yard
    is typically at eighty percent capacity, and over 1,500 trucks pass through it each day. In order to remain efficient,
    Norfolk Southern must limit dwell time within the yard, which is a measure of the time it takes a truck to enter and
    leave the yard, as well as how long a container stays in the yard between off-loading and pick-up. By 2002, existing
    traffic had caused double-parking of containers and increased dwell time, and business was expected to continue to
    grow. The railroad’s future plans included the Crescent Corridor project, which would expand rail service from
    ports in New York and New Jersey across the United States and into Mexico. In 2004, Norfolk Southern decided to
    expand the yard by acquiring three adjacent properties, including one owned by defendant Intermodal Properties,
    LLC. Intermodal’s property would provide 291 additional parking spaces and would connect Croxton with Norfolk
    Southern’s land on the other side of Intermodal’s property. The property’s proximity to the tracks also would
    improve efficiency without increasing dwell time. Intermodal rejected Norfolk Southern’s offers, and the railroad
    initiated condemnation proceedings through a petition filed with the New Jersey Department of Transportation,
    which referred the contested case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
    
              Intermodal proposed to use the property as a parking facility for the Secaucus Junction passenger rail
    station, a use it contended was more compatible with the public interest. The ALJ precluded Intermodal from
    invoking the prior public use doctrine because the property was not being used for a public purpose and was not
    zoned to permit a parking facility. Intermodal succeeded in having the property rezoned, but the ALJ deemed this
    irrelevant since Intermodal presented no evidence that any entity was willing to enter into a contract for public
    parking. In contrast, the railroad’s condemnation would advance the public interest in several ways, including
    alleviating highway congestion, reducing dwell time, and increasing railroad efficiency. The ALJ also disagreed
    with Intermodal’s contention that the statutory provision permitting a taking only “as exigencies of business may
    demand” required the railroad to demonstrate an urgent need. Instead, the ALJ found that the language permitted
    condemnation when necessary to meet business demands, although more than mere convenience was required to
    justify the taking. In light of the projected rapid growth of intermodal business and the planned Crescent Corridor
    project, the ALJ concluded that Norfolk Southern had satisfied this requirement.
    
             Intermodal appealed, and the Appellate Division affirmed the ALJ’s findings with respect to the two issues
    in dispute here. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Intermodal Props., LLC, 
    424 N.J. Super. 106
     (App. Div. 2012). The panel
    agreed with the ALJ’s factual findings, concluding that permitting the railroad to exercise its eminent domain power
    was not incompatible with the public interest. The panel also agreed that Intermodal was precluded from presenting
    evidence of its proposed future use and could not invoke the prior public use doctrine. Finally, the panel adopted the
    ALJ’s interpretation of “exigency,” finding that the railroad’s foreseeable future needs were reasonable business
    needs requiring acquisition of Intermodal’s property. The Court granted Intermodal’s petition for certification. 
    210 N.J. 261
     (2012).
    HELD: Norfolk Southern’s proposed use meets the requirement of N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7 that the taking be “not
    incompatible with the public interest.” Intermodal may not invoke the prior public use doctrine because it lacks the
    power to condemn and its proposed use is neither prior nor public. As used in N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1, “exigencies of
    business” does not necessitate an urgent need for land in order to justify a taking. Rather, it limits a railroad’s power
    to condemn to those circumstances where the general needs or ordinary course of business require it.
    
    1. N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7 requires that a railroad’s taking by eminent domain be “not incompatible with the public
    interest.” New Jersey courts have found that railroads and their related facilities are public uses. The question of
    whether a property owner can defeat a railroad’s exercise of eminent domain by introducing proofs that the owner’s
    proposed use would better serve the public interest requires analysis of the prior public use doctrine. That doctrine
    prohibits condemnation where a proposed use will either destroy an existing public use or prevent a proposed one.
    The property owner invoking the doctrine also must have the power to condemn. At the time the railroad sought to
    condemn Intermodal’s property, Intermodal’s use was not public, and its successful rezoning is irrelevant because
    there is no evidence the proposed future use would be anything but a private venture. Intermodal cannot invoke the
    prior public use doctrine because it does not have condemnation authority and its proposed use, a speculative plan
    for a profit-making parking facility, is neither prior nor public. Finally, N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7 focuses on the
    condemnor’s proposed use and does not require consideration of any alternative proposals that may be more in the
    public interest. Norfolk Southern’s proposed use meets the statutory requirement. (pp. 24-30)
    
    2. When interpreting statutory language, a court’s primary task is to understand and give effect to the Legislature’s
    intent, looking first to the plain language of the statute and turning to other interpretive aids in the face of ambiguity.
    N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1 limits a railroad’s power to condemn to circumstances “as exigencies of business may demand.”
    Modern understandings of words or phrases may not be appropriate guides in statutory interpretation where, as here,
    the statute in question was crafted more than a century ago. Modern day definitions of “exigency” are inconsistent
    and lead to contrary conclusions, requiring consideration of related legislation and decisions published during the
    timeframe when the phrase was chosen by the Legislature. Review of these materials reveals that, in the past, the
    phrase “exigencies of business” was regarded as a term of art used to mean the general needs or ordinary course of
    business, rather than the modern day suggestion of an urgent or pressing need, which is derived from contemporary
    criminal jurisprudence. The phrase “exigencies of business” must be interpreted in accordance with the manner in
    which it was used when the language was chosen. This interpretation is the most sensible one in light of the way in
    which railroads are developed and built, requiring long-term planning. There is no basis on which to conclude that
    the Legislature intended to demand that railroads prove an urgent, immediate, or emergent need for land as a
    prerequisite to exercising their statutory condemnation authority. (pp. 30-42)
    
             The judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.
    
         CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER; JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, ALBIN and PATTERSON; and JUDGES
    RODRÍGUEZ and CUFF (both temporarily assigned) join in JUSTICE HOENS’s opinion.
    
    
    
    
                                                                2
                                         SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY
                                          A-117 September Term 2011
                                                    070240
    
    NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY
    COMPANY, a Virginia
    Corporation,
    
        Petitioner-Respondent,
    
             v.
    
    INTERMODAL PROPERTIES, LLC,
    
        Respondent-Appellant.
    
    
             Argued May 14, 2013 – Decided August 6, 2013
    
             On certification to the Superior Court,
             Appellate Division, whose opinion is
             reported at 
    424 N.J. Super. 106
     (2012).
    
             Eric D. McCullough argued the cause for
             appellant (Waters, McPherson, McNeill,
             attorneys; Mr. McCullough and James P.
             Dugan, of counsel).
    
             Alan P. Fox argued the cause for respondent
             (Capehart & Scatchard, attorneys; Mr. Fox
             and John K. Fiorilla, of counsel).
    
             Carl A. Wyhopen, Deputy Attorney General,
             submitted a letter on behalf of respondent
             Commissioner of Transportation (Jeffrey S.
             Chiesa, Attorney General of New Jersey,
             attorney).
    
             Nancy Winkelman submitted a brief on behalf
             of amici curiae The American Short Line &
             Regional Railroad Association, The
             Association of American Railroads,
             Consolidated Rail Corporation, CSX
             Transportation, Inc., and The New Jersey
             Short Line Railroad Association (Schnader
             Harrison Segal & Lewis, attorneys).
        JUSTICE HOENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
    
        The State’s power to condemn private property is strictly
    
    limited by the constitutional rights of citizens to be free of
    
    takings without just compensation.    See U.S. Const. amend. V;
    
    N.J. Const. art. IV, § 6, ¶ 3.    Moreover, as a further means to
    
    protect the constitutional rights of the people, the Legislature
    
    enacted the Eminent Domain Act of 1971, N.J.S.A. 20:3-1 to -50,
    
    to govern the manner in which the State may exercise its
    
    authority to condemn.
    
        In addition to the general statutory framework embodied in
    
    the Eminent Domain Act, our Legislature has enacted other
    
    statutes that govern the exercise of the power of eminent
    
    domain, including two that are at the center of the dispute now
    
    before this Court.     The first of these statutes authorizes
    
    public utilities, including railroads, to exercise the power of
    
    eminent domain and defines the circumstances and the manner in
    
    which they may do so.    See N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.6 to -17.8.   The
    
    second of these statutes applies specifically to railroads and
    
    further defines the extent of their authority to condemn.       See
    
    N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1.
    
        This appeal arises from the exercise of the power of
    
    eminent domain by plaintiff, Norfolk Southern Railway Company,
    
    as a means to take property owned by defendant, Intermodal
    
    Properties, LLC, for use in the expansion of the railroad’s
    
                                      2
    facility in Secaucus.   That exercise by the railroad of its
    
    authority to condemn was challenged by defendant, leading to
    
    decisions by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and by the
    
    Appellate Division interpreting the two statutes and giving rise
    
    to the two questions of statutory interpretation that are now
    
    before this Court.
    
         First, we are called upon to determine whether the
    
    railroad’s taking of the property met the statutory proscription
    
    that it be “not incompatible with the public interest[.]”
    
    N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7.   Second, we are asked to consider whether
    
    the railroad demonstrated that the taking of defendant’s
    
    property was occasioned by the “exigencies of business” within
    
    the meaning of that phrase as it is used in the statute that
    
    governs takings by railroads in particular.   N.J.S.A. 48:12-
    
    35.1.
    
                                    I.
    
         Norfolk Southern owns a large tract of land in Secaucus,
    
    comprised of between 240 and 275 acres, where it operates a
    
    freight facility known as Croxton Yard (Croxton).   Croxton is an
    
    intermodal freight facility, meaning that it accommodates
    
    transportation of goods by more than one form, or modality, of
    
    carrier, as for example, by rail and by truck.   At Croxton,
    
    freight containers are transferred between trains and tractor-
    
    
    
                                     3
    trailer trucks to facilitate the transport of freight to its
    
    eventual destination.
    
        Norfolk Southern operates the Croxton facility nearly
    
    around the clock, spanning twenty-four hours each weekday and
    
    sixteen hours each day on weekends.   According to a 2007
    
    estimate, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 trucks then moved through
    
    Croxton each day, accounting each month for approximately 18,000
    
    lifts, a term that refers to the loading and unloading of a
    
    container from a train.
    
        Containers are off-loaded at Croxton and moved to parking
    
    spaces within the yard prior to being loaded onto the next
    
    transportation modality for distribution.   Parking spaces are,
    
    on average, filled with containers and trailers to eighty
    
    percent of capacity, reaching one hundred percent full to
    
    capacity on Monday mornings.   In addition, elsewhere in the
    
    facility, there is an area where empty containers are stored
    
    while waiting to be reloaded onto trains as space becomes
    
    available.   In 2007, there were an average of 400 to 500 empty
    
    containers parked in that area each week, with the total
    
    sometimes reaching 1,000.
    
        Rail carriers such as Norfolk Southern compete for
    
    customers, requiring that they maintain efficiency.   One measure
    
    of efficiency that is significant to customers is dwell time.
    
    As the ALJ found, dwell time is
    
                                      4
                a measurement of how long it takes for a
                truck to enter a yard and depart the yard
                [and] is also used as a measurement of the
                amount of time that a container stays in the
                yard from the time it is off-loaded from the
                train until it is picked up by the carrier.
                . . . If dwell time increases significantly,
                it can reach a point where it is no longer
                profitable   for   customers   to  ship   by
                intermodal and they can decide to move cargo
                to another carrier or by truck.
    
        In 2002, Norfolk Southern concluded that its intermodal
    
    business in general was expanding rapidly and that, in order to
    
    meet the anticipated demand, it would need to expand the Croxton
    
    facility.   That conclusion was based on a variety of
    
    considerations.   First, the existing traffic at Croxton had
    
    already led to double-parking of containers, which made it
    
    difficult to move trucks around the yard and increased dwell
    
    time.   Second, Norfolk Southern projected that freight growth in
    
    New Jersey, by some estimates, would double within ten to
    
    fifteen years and, according to other projections, would
    
    continue to grow for twenty-five years.   Third, the railroad
    
    projected that the overall traffic using Croxton would increase
    
    based in part on forecasts prompted by a new undertaking known
    
    as the Crescent Corridor Project.    That project was a long-range
    
    plan by the railroad to expand rail service from ports in New
    
    Jersey and New York into the southeastern and western regions of
    
    the United States and thereafter into Mexico.
    
    
    
                                     5
        Norfolk Southern concluded that the solution to all of its
    
    growth concerns was to increase its facilities at Croxton.
    
    Moreover, the railroad determined that it would need to acquire
    
    nearby or adjacent properties in order to accommodate the
    
    expansion at Croxton.    As a result, in May 2004, the railroad’s
    
    managers decided to sell a piece of property across from Croxton
    
    that was owned by the railroad and to use the proceeds to
    
    acquire three properties they believed were needed for the
    
    expansion of their facility.   One of those properties is owned
    
    by Intermodal.
    
        Intermodal’s property, comprising approximately 5.99 acres,
    
    is adjacent to Croxton.   It is currently the site of an 80,000
    
    square foot warehouse which, at all times relevant to this
    
    dispute, was leased by Intermodal to a company that operated a
    
    freight-forwarding business.   Acquisition of Intermodal’s
    
    property would allow the railroad to create an additional 291
    
    container parking spaces and would connect Croxton with another
    
    small parcel of land on the other side of Intermodal’s property
    
    that is owned by Norfolk Southern.   In addition, because
    
    Intermodal’s property is close to Croxton’s tracks, it would not
    
    increase dwell time and would improve the efficiency of the
    
    operations at Croxton.
    
        At the time when Norfolk Southern embarked on its effort to
    
    acquire the property, the railroad projected it would need the
    
                                     6
    Intermodal property within five years.   Norfolk Southern entered
    
    into negotiations to acquire the Intermodal property, but its
    
    offers were rebuffed.   By September 2005, Intermodal had
    
    informed the railroad that it was not interested in selling the
    
    property.   As a result, Norfolk Southern initiated condemnation
    
    proceedings through a petition filed with the New Jersey
    
    Department of Transportation (NJDOT) as a means to acquire the
    
    Intermodal property.
    
                                    A.
    
         The matter was deemed to be a contested case, referred by
    
    NJDOT to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and assigned to
    
    an ALJ.   Before commencing the hearing on the railroad’s
    
    petition, the ALJ considered, and decided, the two issues that
    
    were raised by Intermodal and are now before this Court.    The
    
    ALJ’s determination of those issues, to a large extent, shaped
    
    the testimony and evidence that the parties offered.1
    
    
    1
         The ALJ also addressed an issue arising from the amendment,
    effective January 13, 2008, of one of the statutes governing
    this dispute. That is, N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1 was amended to
    include a requirement that a railroad seeking to condemn
    property establish that “alternative property suitable for the
    specific proposed use of the property to be taken is unavailable
    . . . and that the interest in the property to be taken does not
    exceed what is necessary for the proposed use[.]” L. 2007, c.
    290, § 1. The ALJ agreed with Norfolk Southern that the
    amendments were preempted by federal law and therefore precluded
    Intermodal from presenting any evidence on the issue. The
    Appellate Division reversed, determining that the amendments
    were not preempted by federal law, and remanded the matter to
    the OAL for further proceedings. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v.
                                     7
        Intermodal’s first argument focused on the statutory
    
    command that the taking be “not incompatible with the public
    
    interest[.]”   N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7.   In particular, Intermodal
    
    sought to offer evidence that it proposed to use its property as
    
    a parking facility that would serve the nearby Secaucus Junction
    
    passenger rail station.   It argued that its proposed use would
    
    be more compatible with the public interest than the use
    
    proposed by Norfolk Southern and that the railroad therefore
    
    should be prohibited from exercising the power to condemn.
    
        The ALJ rejected Intermodal’s proffer for two reasons.
    
    First, observing that Intermodal’s property was not zoned for
    
    use as a parking facility, the ALJ concluded that Intermodal
    
    could not demonstrate that its property could be used for the
    
    purpose it proposed.   Second, the ALJ ruled that, pursuant to
    
    the prior public use doctrine, evidence of the type Intermodal
    
    sought to present would only be relevant if the property were
    
    already being used to serve a public purpose.   Because
    
    Intermodal could not meet that test, the ALJ barred it from
    
    offering any evidence relating to the property’s potential use
    
    as a parking facility.
    
    
    
    
    Intermodal Props., LLC, 
    424 N.J. Super. 106
    , 115, 124-128 (App.
    Div. 2012). Because the railroad did not file a cross-petition
    challenging this aspect of the Appellate Division’s decision,
    the issue is not before us.
                                     8
         Intermodal’s second argument was based on the statutory
    
    authorization that only permitted a taking “as exigencies of
    
    business may demand[.]”   N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1.   Specifically,
    
    Intermodal asserted that the statutory language required the
    
    railroad to demonstrate that there was an emergency before it
    
    could exercise the power to condemn.   The ALJ rejected that
    
    interpretation, concluding that the statute did not limit a
    
    taking to emergencies, and reasoning that the phrase was used
    
    instead to permit the railroad to condemn property as the needs
    
    of its business reasonably demanded.
    
         After making those preliminary legal determinations, the
    
    ALJ conducted numerous hearings, starting in November 2007, but
    
    held on non-sequential days.   During the delays between the
    
    hearings, Intermodal successfully petitioned the New Jersey
    
    Meadowlands Commission (Meadowlands Commission) to have its
    
    property rezoned from the Intermodal B zone to the
    
    Transportation Center zone.    The effect of that zoning change
    
    was that Intermodal’s proposed commuter parking facility for the
    
    Secaucus Junction station would be a permitted use.2
    
         Following the completion of the hearings and consideration
    
    of the testimony and evidence presented by the parties, the ALJ
    
    issued a comprehensive written decision on December 11, 2009.
    
    2
         Norfolk Southern appealed the decision of the Meadowlands
    Commission changing the zone, but the decision was affirmed by
    the Appellate Division in an unpublished opinion.
                                     9
    As it relates to the issues on appeal, that decision separately
    
    analyzed whether the taking of the land by the railroad was “not
    
    incompatible with the public interest” and whether the railroad
    
    was taking Intermodal’s property because of the “exigencies of
    
    business[.]”    In summary, the ALJ answered both questions in
    
    favor of Norfolk Southern.
    
        First, in determining whether the taking was “not
    
    incompatible with the public interest,” the ALJ relied heavily
    
    on the testimony of Susan Gruel, a licensed planner who
    
    testified on the railroad’s behalf.    Gruel testified that the
    
    location of Intermodal’s property, which is near the freight
    
    facility and has direct access to the New Jersey Turnpike, made
    
    it particularly suitable to promote intermodal access.    She
    
    opined that the taking for the expansion of Croxton is
    
    compatible with the objectives of the Meadowlands Master Plan,
    
    the Hudson County Master Plan, and other regional economic
    
    growth plans.
    
        Gruel also testified that the taking would further the
    
    goals of other local, regional, and state-wide plans, including
    
    the Hudson County Strategic Revitalization Plan, which sought to
    
    upgrade intermodal systems and to find alternatives to truck
    
    traffic; the New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment
    
    Plan, which was designed to promote economic development,
    
    develop transportation alternatives, and protect the
    
                                     10
    environment; and the Regional Transportation Plan-Access and
    
    Mobility 2003 for North Jersey, which also noted the need to
    
    increase rail facilities and reduce reliance on trucks.
    
        In addition, Gruel testified that the condemnation would
    
    advance the goals set by the NJDOT.     Specifically, she found
    
    support in two NJDOT documents.    First, she noted that a study
    
    referred to as Portway, which was intended to coordinate
    
    infrastructure projects to improve transportation access between
    
    Newark and Elizabeth, projected a significant increase in the
    
    need to move goods and identified a corollary need to enhance
    
    rail facilities as a means to minimize environmental impacts.
    
    Second, she observed that in the Update Report of the New Jersey
    
    State Rail Planning Process, NJDOT recommended the development
    
    of rail services as a way to save energy and reduce highway
    
    congestion.
    
        During the hearings before the ALJ, Intermodal attempted to
    
    question Gruel about whether the rezoning of its property
    
    demonstrated that the Meadowlands Commission viewed a parking
    
    facility as a better planning option for the property than the
    
    one proposed by the railroad.     The ALJ precluded that line of
    
    questioning because Intermodal had not presented any evidence
    
    that the State or any other public entity was willing to enter
    
    into a contract with Intermodal to provide public parking for
    
    Secaucus Junction.   Therefore, the ALJ deemed Intermodal’s line
    
                                      11
    of questioning to be irrelevant because Intermodal could not
    
    claim the protection of the prior public use doctrine.
    
        Ultimately, in deciding whether Norfolk Southern had
    
    demonstrated that the taking was “not incompatible with the
    
    public interest[,]” N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7, the ALJ concluded that
    
    the condemnation of Intermodal’s property would advance the
    
    public interest in several ways.     The ALJ found support in the
    
    plans and the studies cited by Gruel as well as in the other
    
    evidence that the railroad had presented.     In particular, she
    
    found that the taking would further the realization of the
    
    Crescent Corridor project which, in turn, would advance the
    
    public interest by alleviating congestion on the highways.
    
    Moreover, the ALJ recognized that the taking would further the
    
    goal of reducing dwell time.   In this regard, she found that
    
    dwell time was a significant consideration, observing that in
    
    January 2007, Norfolk Southern had upgraded the system for
    
    trucks entering its yard from the access road, installing an
    
    automated gate and adding lanes, in an effort to reduce dwell
    
    time.   Finally, the ALJ credited testimony that the expansion
    
    also would increase railroad efficiency and decrease pollution
    
    by lessening the time trucks were on the road.     In short, the
    
    ALJ concluded that the condemnation was “clearly in the public
    
    interest.”
    
    
    
                                    12
        Second, the ALJ considered the arguments concerning whether
    
    the condemnation was justified by the exigencies of the
    
    railroad’s business.   See N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1.     In analyzing
    
    whether the railroad had met that statutory test, the ALJ
    
    reiterated her pre-hearing order setting forth her
    
    understanding, in accordance with a dictionary definition, that
    
    the term “exigency” did not mean emergency but, instead, meant
    
    “the need, demand or requirement intrinsic to a circumstance or
    
    condition.”   Even so, the ALJ commented that “something more is
    
    required beside mere convenience for the railroad” in order to
    
    justify Norfolk Southern’s taking of the Intermodal property.
    
        The ALJ then determined that, based on the proofs presented
    
    during the hearings, Norfolk Southern had satisfied this
    
    interpretation of the statutory requirement.      She first relied
    
    on studies and testimony that projected rapid growth in
    
    intermodal business over the next ten to thirty years.      She
    
    included in her analysis governmental and independent studies
    
    that advocated for growth in intermodal traffic as a way to
    
    alleviate roadway congestion and address environmental concerns.
    
        As part of the consideration of these studies, the ALJ
    
    recognized that the recent general economic downturn had reduced
    
    intermodal traffic and that future levels of intermodal traffic
    
    could not be precisely predicted.    Nonetheless, the ALJ rejected
    
    two opinions offered by Intermodal’s expert directed to whether
    
                                    13
    the railroad had met the statutory requirement that the taking
    
    be undertaken because of the exigencies of business.    Those
    
    opinions were that the traffic expansion projected by the
    
    independent studies was flawed and that if intermodal traffic
    
    were to increase, that additional traffic would not be directed
    
    to Croxton.
    
        The ALJ rejected both opinions, explaining that
    
    Intermodal’s expert had offered no supporting evidence to
    
    substantiate either of those views.   On the contrary, the ALJ
    
    observed that, in transportation planning, it is not unusual to
    
    project fifteen to thirty years into the future.   In evaluating
    
    Norfolk Southern’s projections, the ALJ found that the evidence
    
    supported the railroad’s contention that intermodal traffic
    
    would expand to the point where the land it sought to acquire
    
    would be needed at Croxton within the next ten years.
    
        In addition, the ALJ found that the Crescent Corridor
    
    project would add to those growth projections, thus requiring an
    
    expansion of Croxton to facilitate the demands created by that
    
    project.   As part of her consideration of that evidence, the ALJ
    
    described the enormous geographic and financial scope of the
    
    Crescent Corridor project.   Moreover, she considered, and
    
    rejected, two challenges that Intermodal raised to the evidence
    
    concerning the Crescent Corridor.
    
    
    
                                    14
        First, the ALJ recognized that Intermodal contended that
    
    there was no assurance that the project would actually be built
    
    as envisioned.   After acknowledging that the ultimate success of
    
    the Crescent Corridor project is an open question, however, the
    
    ALJ found that Norfolk Southern was committed to the project and
    
    that its goals were sound.
    
        Similarly, the ALJ considered Intermodal’s assertion that,
    
    if built, the Crescent Corridor project should not reach
    
    Croxton, but instead should terminate in Middlesex County where
    
    there is an abundance of available warehouse space.     The ALJ
    
    rejected that argument because Intermodal had not investigated
    
    whether the railroad’s customers would prefer that their freight
    
    be off-loaded in Middlesex County or whether that plan might
    
    cause an increase in truck traffic in New Jersey.     Balancing all
    
    of these considerations, the ALJ concluded that Norfolk Southern
    
    would require the Intermodal property for the success of the
    
    Crescent Corridor project and that the railroad should not be
    
    expected to wait until that “project is up and running to begin
    
    condemnation proceedings.”
    
        In deciding whether the railroad had demonstrated that the
    
    taking was justified by the exigencies of its business, the ALJ
    
    found that Norfolk Southern had presented sufficient evidence
    
    that intermodal traffic will increase and that the Crescent
    
    
    
                                    15
    Corridor project, in particular, presented “sound economic and
    
    environmental reasons” to move forward with the condemnation.
    
        In summary, therefore, the ALJ concluded that Norfolk
    
    Southern had demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence
    
    that its taking of Intermodal’s property satisfied both the
    
    statutory command that it be “not incompatible with the public
    
    interest[,]” N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7, and that it be demanded by the
    
    exigencies of the railroad’s business, see N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1.
    
                                    B.
    
        Because the NJDOT Commissioner did not modify or reject the
    
    ALJ’s decision, it became a final decision by operation of law.
    
    See N.J.S.A. 52:14B-10(c).   Intermodal then filed an appeal with
    
    the Appellate Division.   R. 2:2-3(a)(2).   In a published
    
    opinion, the Appellate Division affirmed the ALJ’s findings of
    
    fact and conclusions of law respecting the two issues in dispute
    
    before us, Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Intermodal Props., LLC, 
    424 N.J. Super. 106
    , 129 (App. Div. 2012), and remanded the matter
    
    for proceedings not germane to our analysis, id. at 124-28.
    
        First, in determining that the ALJ correctly concluded that
    
    the taking was not incompatible with the public interest, the
    
    Appellate Division pointed to much of the evidence that the ALJ
    
    had found persuasive.   In particular, the appellate panel looked
    
    to the evidence supporting expansion of rail and intermodal
    
    facilities found in the Meadowlands Master Plan and the Hudson
    
                                    16
    County Master Plan, as well as the projections for continued
    
    growth found in the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s Regional
    
    Transportation Plan and NJDOT’s Portway study.     Id. at 116-17.
    
        The appellate court also noted, quoting the ALJ, that
    
    expanding Croxton would be beneficial because it would reduce
    
    dwell time, thus “‘lessen[ing] the amount of pollutants that
    
    [trucks] emit into the air.’”   Id. at 117.    The court found
    
    further support in the ALJ’s findings that the Crescent Corridor
    
    project, which is consistent with the Meadowlands Master Plan,
    
    would require expansion of Croxton, again helping to alleviate
    
    “‘traffic congestion and air emissions.’”     Id. at 117-18.
    
    Taking those facts together with the “well established
    
    understanding that railroads serve a public purpose[,]” the
    
    Appellate Division concluded that permitting the railroad to
    
    exercise the power of eminent domain was not incompatible with
    
    the public interest.   Id. at 118.
    
        As part of its analysis, the appellate panel concurred with
    
    the ALJ’s refusal to permit Intermodal “to present evidence
    
    showing that the use of [its] property as a commuter parking lot
    
    would be of greater benefit to the public than the use of the
    
    property for intermodal freight operations.”     Ibid.   Both
    
    because, at the time the railroad sought to take the property,
    
    it was not zoned for use as a parking facility, and because the
    
    subsequent rezoning of the property provided “no evidence
    
                                    17
    indicating that any State or local entity was willing to enter
    
    into an agreement with Intermodal to develop the property as a
    
    commuter parking lot[,]” id. at 118-19, the Appellate Division
    
    agreed that Intermodal could not invoke the prior public use
    
    doctrine.   Not only was the property not being used for a public
    
    purpose at the time Norfolk Southern filed its condemnation
    
    petition, but, as the appellate court commented, even after the
    
    zoning change, the “development of the property as a commuter
    
    parking lot was speculative, at best.”     Id. at 119.
    
        Second, the Appellate Division addressed the statutory
    
    provision that permits railroads to condemn property as the
    
    “exigencies of business may demand.”     Id. at 120.     Rejecting
    
    Intermodal’s contention that the language of the statute
    
    requires an urgent or emergency situation, the court instead
    
    agreed with the ALJ’s interpretation of “exigency.”        Ibid.     In
    
    doing so, the appellate court adopted the dictionary definition
    
    used by the ALJ, through which the phrase is understood to mean
    
    “‘the need, demand, or requirement intrinsic to a circumstance,
    
    [or] condition’ such as ‘the exigencies of city life[.]’” Ibid.
    
    (quoting Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (2d ed.
    
    2006)).
    
        Applying standard tools of statutory construction, the
    
    panel explained that it was “convinced that the Legislature did
    
    not intend to limit the exercise of the condemnation power in
    
                                    18
    N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1 to emergency situations, [but that] a
    
    railroad may take private property by the exercise of the power
    
    of eminent domain as the needs of its business may reasonably
    
    demand.”   Id. at 120-21.     That conclusion was based in large
    
    measure on the appellate court’s recognition that the time
    
    involved in effectuating the condemnation process and in
    
    complying with the other requirements embodied in the statute is
    
    lengthy, implying that demonstrating an emergency need was not
    
    part of the Legislature’s intent.       Id. at 121.   Rather, the
    
    railroad’s decision to condemn property is “more often than not
    
    the result of long-term planning[,]” which, the panel reasoned,
    
    indicates the Legislature did not intend to limit takings to
    
    emergency situations.      Ibid.
    
        In addition to agreeing with the ALJ’s analysis of the
    
    statutory language, the appellate court found sufficient
    
    credible evidence in the record to support the ALJ’s finding
    
    that the railroad’s foreseeable future needs, based on its
    
    growth and expansion plans, were “reasonable needs of . . .
    
    business demand[ing] the acquisition of Intermodal’s property.”
    
    Id. at 122.
    
        Intermodal filed a petition for certification, which we
    
    granted.   
    210 N.J. 261
    .     We thereafter granted leave to the
    
    American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association, the
    
    Association of American Railroads, Consolidated Rail Corp., CSX
    
                                       19
    Transportation, Inc., and the New Jersey Short Line Railroad
    
    Association to participate in the appeal as amici curiae.3
    
                                    II.
    
         The parties essentially reiterate the arguments that they
    
    raised before the ALJ and the Appellate Division.
    
         Intermodal asserts that the ALJ erred in precluding it from
    
    offering evidence that its plan to build a parking facility for
    
    the nearby commuter rail station was more compatible with the
    
    public interest than the use to which the railroad planned to
    
    put its property.   As part of that argument, Intermodal contends
    
    that both the ALJ and the Appellate Division erred in their
    
    analysis of the prior public use doctrine.   That erroneous
    
    analysis, Intermodal asserts, amounted to an interpretation of
    
    the governing statute that effectively authorizes the railroad
    
    to take private property regardless of whether the owner’s
    
    alternative purpose might create a greater potential benefit to
    
    the public.   Pointing to its successful effort to have the
    
    Meadowlands Commission rezone its property for use as a parking
    
    
    3
         The NJDOT Commissioner filed a letter with this Court
    expressing opposition to Intermodal’s petition for
    certification. Following our grant of that petition, the NJDOT
    Commissioner filed a statement in lieu of brief. See R. 2:6-
    4(c). In that statement, the Commissioner expressed the view
    that NJDOT was not required to participate, that the parties had
    adequately briefed the issues, and that NJDOT had no vested
    interest in the outcome. Notwithstanding that position, the
    Commissioner offered the opinion that the decision of the ALJ
    should be affirmed, as it was neither arbitrary nor capricious.
                                    20
    facility, Intermodal asserts that it was deprived of due process
    
    when the ALJ prevented it from cross-examining the railroad’s
    
    planner on its proposed competing use.
    
        Intermodal also takes issue with the interpretation of the
    
    statute relating to the exigencies of the railroad’s business.
    
    It argues that the statute contemplates a present and
    
    identifiable need for the property and that the reading of the
    
    statute adopted by the ALJ and affirmed by the Appellate
    
    Division is too deferential to the railroad to be consistent
    
    with the Legislature’s intent.   Recognizing that long-term
    
    planning is needed for railroad development, Intermodal asks
    
    this Court to interpret the statutory language to require
    
    railroads to “show a cognizable and definite need or requirement
    
    for the taking.”   In short, Intermodal urges us to conclude that
    
    the Legislature chose the word “exigency” with the purpose of
    
    implying a sort of immediacy or urgency, as would be consistent
    
    with the ordinary meaning of that term, leading to the
    
    conclusion that the railroad’s general concern for its long-term
    
    needs falls short of what the statute demands.
    
        Norfolk Southern urges this Court to affirm the judgment of
    
    the Appellate Division in all respects.     First, it asserts that
    
    Intermodal’s effort to offer the potential use of the rezoned
    
    property is based on a misreading of the precedents permitting
    
    evaluation of another public use.     As the railroad understands
    
                                     21
    the law, only when property was being put to a public purpose at
    
    the time of the taking does the alternative use of the property
    
    become relevant to the attempt to condemn.   Because Intermodal’s
    
    property was not being put to a public purpose at the time when
    
    the railroad sought to take it, and because any future public
    
    purpose would be speculative, Norfolk Southern argues that the
    
    ALJ correctly precluded Intermodal from offering evidence
    
    relating to the plan to turn the property into a parking
    
    facility for the commuter train station.
    
        Second, the railroad asserts that the ALJ and the Appellate
    
    Division correctly understood and applied the statutory phrase
    
    “exigencies of business.”   Arguing that the Legislature must
    
    have recognized the need for long-term planning relating to
    
    railroad expansion, Norfolk Southern contends that “exigency”
    
    cannot mean “emergency,” but instead must be related to
    
    projections of future growth and needs.
    
        Amici Curiae, a group of freight railroad companies
    
    operating in New Jersey and related trade organizations, offer
    
    this Court historical background about railroads and the
    
    condemnation power granted to them.   They urge us to consider
    
    the vital importance of railroads, particularly as a means to
    
    relieve congestion on our highways, reduce engine emissions,
    
    conserve energy, and improve safety of the traveling public.
    
    They explain that the process involved in expanding railroads is
    
                                    22
    lengthy and complex, and they assert that the interpretation of
    
    the statutory phrase “exigencies of business” must be consistent
    
    with these practical realities.    In summary, amici urge this
    
    Court to affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division in its
    
    entirety.
    
                                     III.
    
        This appeal calls upon us to consider two statutory
    
    provisions that relate to the power that the Legislature has
    
    vested in public utilities and, more particularly, in railroads,
    
    to acquire property through exercising the power of eminent
    
    domain.   First, we address the limitation placed on the exercise
    
    of the power to condemn by any public utility through the
    
    requirement that the taking be “not incompatible with the public
    
    interest.”   N.J.S.A. 48:17-7.    Second, we consider the
    
    limitation imposed by the requirement that, when the
    
    condemnation power is exercised by a railroad, it only be
    
    permitted to take property to the extent that the “exigencies of
    
    business may demand[.]”   N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1.
    
                                      A.
    
        We need not recite the rich body of principles based upon
    
    our constitution and statutory law that inform every
    
    consideration of the exercise of the power of eminent domain,
    
    much of which is familiar and well-established.     Instead, we
    
    focus only on the two specific statutory phrases before the
    
                                      23
    Court.   As a result, the debate before us is indeed a narrow one
    
    because the parties do not disagree that the railroad’s taking
    
    is for a proposed public use.      Instead, they argue only about
    
    the evidence relevant to the requirement that the taking be not
    
    incompatible with the public interest and the meaning of the
    
    phrase “exigencies of business.”
    
        Turning first to the question about the evaluation of
    
    whether the proposed use is not incompatible with the public
    
    interest, the focus of the parties is solely on whether
    
    Intermodal should have been permitted to offer evidence
    
    concerning its different proposal for the use of its property.
    
        We have addressed previously how to evaluate whether a
    
    proposed use is a public use.      See Twp. of W. Orange v. 769
    
    Assocs., LLC, 
    172 N.J. 564
    , 573 (2002).      That is, we have
    
    concluded that, “‘public use’ is synonymous with ‘public
    
    benefit,’ ‘public advantage,’ or ‘public utility.’”      Ibid.
    
    (quoting State Highway Comm’r v. Totowa Lumber & Supply Co., 
    96 N.J. Super. 115
    , 119 (App. Div. 1967)).      In particular, we
    
    described a public use in terms of one “that tends to enlarge
    
    resources, increase the industrial energies, and . . .
    
    manifestly contributes to the general welfare and the prosperity
    
    of the whole community.”   Ibid.     (internal quotation marks
    
    omitted).
    
    
    
                                       24
           Moreover, we have recognized that railroads and related
    
    terminal facilities meet the requirements for being a public
    
    use.    See Twp. of Weehawkin v. Erie R.R. Co., 
    20 N.J. 572
    , 581-
    
    82 (1956).    That is, railroads are “bound to accommodate all
    
    freight and passenger traffic which seek its service[,]” and
    
    “[r]eceiving and terminal facilities are necessary adjuncts to
    
    the service rendered.”     Id. at 581.    “The transportation of
    
    freight constitutes a public franchise, . . . and [a] proposed
    
    [terminal] facility is a necessary implement[.]”       Id. at 581
    
    (internal citation omitted).     “The public use thus manifested is
    
    not diluted because the facility may only be enjoyed by a
    
    portion of the public.”     Id. at 582.    Railroads are “bound to
    
    extend the[ir] service to all who have reasonable need for the
    
    proposed facility depending upon its capacity for transshipment
    
    of freight.”    Ibid.   Therefore, railroads “should not be so
    
    strictly construed as to disallow growth and progress to meet
    
    the competitive forces of the time.”       Ibid.
    
           The question before us is whether a property owner can
    
    defeat a railroad’s exercise of eminent domain by introducing
    
    proofs that the owner’s proposed use of its property would
    
    better serve the public interest than would the railroad’s
    
    proposed use thereof.     That assertion requires us to consider
    
    the subsidiary question raised by the parties concerning the
    
    
    
                                      25
    evaluation by the ALJ and the Appellate Division of the prior
    
    public use doctrine.
    
        The prior public use doctrine has a specific meaning and
    
    application.    It arose in the context of disputes over land
    
    between two entities, each of which had condemnation power.        Id.
    
    at 579.     The circumstances we encountered in Weehawken aptly
    
    illustrate the concern that gave rise to the doctrine.       There, a
    
    railroad owned two parcels and the municipality desired to
    
    condemn one for use as a baseball field and other recreational
    
    purposes.    Id. at 578.   In that context, this Court recognized
    
    that each litigant had the authority to condemn and each
    
    asserted that it intended to use the property for a public
    
    purpose.    We also recognized that in that unique circumstance,
    
    in the absence of either a rule of law or special legislation
    
    designed to end the dispute, the two entities could engage in an
    
    endless round of condemnation and re-condemnation, with each
    
    seeking to acquire the property by asserting its power of
    
    eminent domain.    Id. at 579.
    
        In order to create certainty, this Court crafted the prior
    
    public use doctrine, which operates to “den[y] exercise of the
    
    power of condemnation where the proposed use will destroy an
    
    existing public use or prevent a proposed public use unless the
    
    authority to do so has been expressly given by the Legislature
    
    or must necessarily be implied.”       Ibid.   The application of the
    
                                      26
    doctrine, therefore, is both specific and narrow.      It does not
    
    automatically apply merely because property is already being
    
    used for a public purpose.   See Texas E. Transmission Corp. v.
    
    Wildlife Preserves, Inc., 
    48 N.J. 261
    , 268-69 (1966) (denying
    
    “public-spirited” conservation group protection of prior public
    
    use doctrine for private land voluntarily devoted to use as
    
    wildlife preserve because conservation group lacked condemnation
    
    authority).
    
        That is, a property owner that devotes its property to a
    
    worthy public purpose, unless it also has the power to condemn,
    
    cannot avail itself of the protections of the prior public use
    
    doctrine.   Id. at 267-68.   Moreover, as we explained, if the
    
    prior public use doctrine does not apply, “no comparative
    
    evaluation of two public uses, one existing and one proposed,
    
    need be undertaken in order to determine which should prevail as
    
    the paramount use.”   Id. at 273.      Therefore, an owner cannot
    
    look to the prior public use doctrine to defend against a
    
    condemnation action absent a pre-existing, public use coupled
    
    with the power of eminent domain, nor may it suggest that there
    
    is a potential or future proposed use that might be more
    
    beneficial than the proposed use put forth by the condemnor.
    
        With these precedents to guide us, our evaluation of
    
    Intermodal’s argument is clear.     First, Intermodal’s use of the
    
    property at the time that the railroad sought to exercise the
    
                                      27
    power of eminent domain was not a public use.     The record
    
    reflects that, at the time, the Intermodal property was being
    
    used by private entities for truck parking.     Moreover, at the
    
    time, the property could not have been devoted to the public use
    
    that Intermodal has identified because it would have been
    
    inconsistent with the zoning ordinance.   Nor is it relevant that
    
    Intermodal succeeded in rezoning the property as part of its
    
    effort to potentially achieve its stated public purpose of
    
    creating a parking facility for the nearby commuter train
    
    station.   Although achieving that purpose might have served the
    
    public interest in some sense, Intermodal has not suggested that
    
    it would be anything but a privately owned and profit-driven
    
    venture.   Intermodal cannot claim the protection of the prior
    
    public use doctrine because the use to which it points is
    
    neither a prior use nor a public one, but is instead a
    
    speculative, future plan for a profit-making venture.
    
        More fundamentally, the prior public use doctrine would
    
    only apply if the property owner itself had the power of eminent
    
    domain, as if, for example, the municipality had already taken
    
    Intermodal’s property for a parking facility.     Because
    
    Intermodal lacks the power to condemn, the prior public use
    
    doctrine can have no application to this dispute over the
    
    railroad’s exercise of its power of eminent domain.
    
    
    
                                    28
        Finally, the language of the statute speaks only to the
    
    requirement that the taking be “not incompatible with the public
    
    interest.”   N.J.S.A. 48:3-17.7.    That statutory language demands
    
    that the focus be on the proposed use identified by the
    
    condemnor; as we have held, in the absence of a previously
    
    existing public use, it does not permit a comparative analysis
    
    of a competing public purpose that an owner proposes.     See Texas
    
    E. Transmission Corp., supra, 48 N.J. at 273.     That is, the
    
    statute requires evaluation of whether the purpose proposed by
    
    the condemning authority is incompatible with the public
    
    interest, not whether there is some alternative proposal that
    
    might be more in the public interest.
    
        In the end, Intermodal’s interpretation of the statute
    
    asked the ALJ to engage in the latter analysis, seeking
    
    permission to offer a plan that Intermodal thought would be a
    
    better or more worthy purpose.     Whether, in fact, the plan
    
    proposed by Intermodal would have been a better one than that
    
    which the railroad proposed, however, is of no moment in light
    
    of the clear language that the Legislature chose when creating
    
    the boundaries within which the railroad may exercise the power
    
    of eminent domain.   We, therefore, detect no error in the
    
    analysis of the ALJ or in the judgment of the Appellate Division
    
    concluding that the railroad’s proposed use of the property was
    
    
    
                                       29
    “not incompatible with the public interest” as defined by the
    
    statute.
    
                                    B.
    
        The second argument raised by the parties rests as well on
    
    a debate about statutory interpretation.   Because in this aspect
    
    of the appeal we are called upon to interpret the meaning of a
    
    word or phrase chosen by the Legislature, we recite briefly the
    
    familiar concepts of statutory construction that guide us.
    
        Courts ordinarily “‘give substantial deference to the
    
    interpretation an agency gives to a statute that the agency is
    
    charged with enforcing.’”   R & R Mktg., LLC v. Brown-Forman
    
    Corp., 
    158 N.J. 170
    , 175 (1999) (quoting Smith v. Dir., Div. of
    
    Taxation, 
    108 N.J. 19
    , 25 (1987)); accord Richardson v. Bd. of
    
    Trs., Police & Firemens’ Ret. Sys., 
    192 N.J. 189
    , 196 (2007).
    
    However, we are “in no way bound by the agency’s interpretation
    
    of a statute or its determination of a strictly legal issue.”
    
    In re Taylor, 
    158 N.J. 644
    , 658 (1999) (quoting Mayflower Sec.
    
    Co. v. Bureau of Sec., 
    64 N.J. 85
    , 93 (1973)).
    
        As we have long recognized, in general, “[i]n any matter
    
    requiring our consideration of a statute, our essential task is
    
    to understand and give effect to the intent of the Legislature.”
    
    Pizzullo v. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co., 
    196 N.J. 251
    , 264 (2008); see
    
    also Roberts v. State, Div. of State Police, 
    191 N.J. 516
    , 521
    
    (2007) (construing meaning of police disciplinary statute
    
                                    30
    through use of extrinsic aids); Bunk v. Port Auth. of N.Y. &
    
    N.J., 
    144 N.J. 176
    , 194 (1996) (construing intent of
    
    Legislature’s amendment to Worker’s Compensation Act).
    
        In engaging in that important task, “we look first to the
    
    plain language of the statute, seeking further guidance only to
    
    the extent that the Legislature’s intent cannot be derived from
    
    the words that it has chosen.”   Pizzullo, supra, 196 N.J. at
    
    264; accord Roberts, supra, 191 N.J. at 521.   If “the language
    
    is not clear and unambiguous on its face, we look to other
    
    interpretive aids to assist us in our understanding of the
    
    Legislature’s will.”   Pizzullo, supra, 196 N.J. at 264; see,
    
    e.g., Roberts, supra, 191 N.J. at 521 (reviewing extrinsic aids
    
    including Governor’s conditional veto message and bill sponsor’s
    
    statements); Panzino v. Cont’l Can Co., 
    71 N.J. 298
    , 301-03
    
    (1976) (relying on bill sponsor’s statement for guidance).
    
        With these precedents as our guide, we turn to the dispute
    
    between the parties concerning the meaning of the statute
    
    limiting the railroad’s power to condemn to circumstances “as
    
    exigencies of business may demand[.]”   N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1.
    
        In striving to determine what the Legislature intended when
    
    it chose the word “exigencies[,]” the ALJ applied a dictionary
    
    definition.   Using that approach, the ALJ concluded that the
    
    term meant “need, demand or requirement to a circumstance or
    
    condition.”   In affirming that conclusion, the Appellate
    
                                     31
    Division expanded on the analysis, considering the dictionary
    
    definition and the statute as a whole.   As the panel therefore
    
    explained, the word “exigency” did not connote an emergency or
    
    an urgent need, but instead, when viewed in light of the entire
    
    statute, was meant to convey the reasonable demands of the
    
    business of a railroad.   Norfolk Southern, supra, 424 N.J.
    
    Super. at 120-21 (citing Hubner v. Spring Valley Equestrian
    
    Ctr., 
    203 N.J. 184
    , 195 (2010)).
    
        Our evaluation proceeds on a somewhat different course
    
    because modern day definitions are inconsistent and lead to
    
    contrary conclusions.   Although the ALJ and the appellate court
    
    used a dictionary that gave a definition that apparently fits
    
    the overall statutory intent, it is not the only dictionary
    
    definition for the term we are called upon to interpret.      Other
    
    dictionaries define exigency in terms of “a state of affairs
    
    that makes urgent demands[,]” Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate
    
    Dictionary 435 (1985), or as a “state of urgency; a situation
    
    requiring immediate action[,]” Black’s Law Dictionary 655 (9th
    
    ed. 2009).
    
        Those definitions are perhaps a reflection of the use of
    
    the term as it is meant in the context of rights protected by
    
    the Fourth Amendment, see U.S. Const. amend. IV, and by our
    
    parallel constitutional provision, see N.J. Const. art. I, ¶ 7.
    
    In that context, the word, which is ordinarily used in the
    
                                    32
    phrase “exigent circumstances,” always connotes a sense of
    
    urgency or emergency in which action is needed.   See State v.
    
    Johnson, 
    193 N.J. 528
    , 552-53 (2008) (observing that term
    
    “cannot be precisely defined . . . [but involves circumstances]
    
    when inaction due to the time needed to obtain a warrant will
    
    create a substantial likelihood that the police or members of
    
    the public will be exposed to physical danger or that evidence
    
    will be destroyed or removed from the scene”); see also Black’s
    
    Law Dictionary 277 (9th ed. 2009) (defining exigent
    
    circumstances as “situation that demands unusual or immediate
    
    action and that may allow people to circumvent usual
    
    procedures”).   Although that understanding of the term, having
    
    found its way into common parlance, undoubtedly gave some
    
    support for Intermodal’s assertion in this dispute, it is not a
    
    useful avenue for interpretation of this statute.
    
        Rather, as this appeal illustrates, modern understandings
    
    of words or phrases may not be appropriate guides in statutory
    
    interpretation, particularly if a statute was crafted decades in
    
    the past, or, as in this case, more than a century ago.     Nor are
    
    they appropriate if a statute uses a term of art, in which
    
    circumstance we are bound to construe the term “in accordance
    
    with those meanings.”   In re Lead Paint Litig., 
    191 N.J. 405
    ,
    
    430 (2007); see also N.J.S.A. 1:1-1 (declaring that “words . . .
    
    having a special or accepted meaning in the law, shall be
    
                                    33
    construed in accordance with such . . . meaning”); accord
    
    Bosland v. Warnock Dodge, Inc., 
    197 N.J. 543
    , 553 (2009).
    
        In our quest to understand the meaning of the phrase used
    
    in this statute, therefore, it is appropriate for us to look to
    
    the language of the statute as well as to decisions published
    
    during the timeframe when the phrase was chosen by the
    
    Legislature in order to assist us in interpreting the phrase in
    
    accordance with its intended meaning.   In particular, because
    
    the phrase connects the word “exigencies” with the word
    
    “business,” it is appropriate to look to published decisions
    
    that use both of those words so that we may understand the
    
    meaning in context and, therefore, glean what the Legislature
    
    understood the phrase to mean when choosing it.
    
        First, the phrase “exigencies of business[,]” which is now
    
    found in N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1, is not one of recent vintage, but
    
    has deep roots in predecessor statutes governing the formation
    
    of railroads and the creation of their routes.    Beginning with
    
    the 1873 Act to Authorize the Formation of Railroad Corporations
    
    and Regulate Same (1873 Act), L. 1873, c. 413, §§ 1 to 39, the
    
    Legislature created a system to govern the way in which
    
    railroads could be formed and the manner in which they were to
    
    be operated.   That original enactment, which preceded the
    
    passage of the Eminent Domain Act, L. 1900, c. 53, § 1, not only
    
    granted to directors of railroads the power to take land, see L.
    
                                    34
    1873, c. 413, § 1, but also included sections devoted to the
    
    technicalities of the way in which the power of condemnation
    
    could be exercised and how just compensation would be
    
    established, see id. §§ 11-13.
    
        The 1873 Act permitted takings of land for the purpose of
    
    laying tracks, creating a right of way, siting and building
    
    depots, and the like.   In describing the scope of authority to
    
    take land, the Legislature used various kinds of limiting
    
    language.   That is, takings for the right of way were limited to
    
    100 feet in width, id. § 11; takings of additional land to
    
    redirect a road or turnpike so as to ease ascent and descent of
    
    the tracks was permitted “as may be deemed requisite by the
    
    directors[,]” id. § 21; and, in general, appurtenant buildings
    
    were only permitted as deemed “expedient” for the safety of
    
    property and “for necessary uses appertaining to [the
    
    railroad’s] business[,]” id. § 17.
    
        The phrase “exigencies of business[,]” as it relates to
    
    railroads, first appeared in a separate piece of legislation
    
    enacted in 1877.   See An Act Concerning Railroad Corporations
    
    (1877 Act), L. 1877, c. 31, § 1.      The 1877 Act, while not
    
    amending the more general railroad statute of 1873, permitted
    
    railroads to exercise the power of eminent domain “to all such
    
    lands adjoining their road as constructed on their right of way
    
    as located, as, in the judgment of the directors of such
    
                                     35
    company, the exigencies of business may demand for the erection
    
    of freight and passenger depots and all other legitimate
    
    purposes of said company[.]”     Ibid.
    
        Apparently proceeding in parallel fashion, the more general
    
    1873 Act was amended several times, in ways that are not germane
    
    to our analysis.   In 1887, however, the Legislature amended the
    
    1873 Act to incorporate the language that had been used in the
    
    1877 Act to describe the exercise of the power of eminent
    
    domain.   L. 1877, c. 31, § 1.    As a result, the 1887 amendment
    
    imported the phrase “the exigencies of business” into the more
    
    general railroad statute’s pre-existing authorization of eminent
    
    domain.   After the passage of the Eminent Domain Act in 1900, L.
    
    1900, c. 53, §§ 1 to 19, the statutes governing railroads
    
    underwent a general revision.     See 1903 Act Concerning Railroads
    
    (1903 Act), L. 1903, c. 257, §§ 1 to 89.    In part, that new
    
    statute omitted the earlier-included sections on the technical
    
    manner in which the power of eminent domain could be exercised,
    
    in favor of incorporating the procedures found in the Eminent
    
    Domain Act by reference.   See id. § 13.    The 1903 Act,
    
    therefore, included the general grant to railroads of the power
    
    of eminent domain, along with the reference to the scope of that
    
    authority being limited “as in the judgment of the [railroad’s]
    
    directors . . . the exigencies of business may demand.”     Ibid.
    
    
    
                                      36
        The 1903 Act was often referred to at the time as the
    
    General Railroad law.   Section 13 of the 1903 Act, relating to
    
    the condemnation power, was amended several times thereafter,
    
    before being repealed in 1962, see L. 1962, c. 198, § 198, and
    
    replaced with the current statute, L. 1962, c. 198, § 60
    
    (codified at N.J.S.A. 48:12-35.1).    It was in 1962, in the
    
    context of classifying railroads as public utilities, see L.
    
    1962, c. 198, § 48, that the Legislature deleted the earlier
    
    statutory reference to the “judgment of the directors,” leaving
    
    only the long-standing phrase, “exigencies of business may
    
    demand” as the standard.
    
        Throughout all of those statutory changes, since 1877, the
    
    phrase regarding the exercise of the power of eminent domain by
    
    the railroad that refers to “the exigencies of business” has not
    
    been altered.   The phrase, therefore, is best understood by
    
    seeking guidance as to the meaning that was ascribed to it both
    
    in decisions construing the 1903 Act, and in decisions that
    
    utilized it in analogous contexts in the late 1800’s when the
    
    Legislature included it in the laws governing railroads.
    
        There are published decisions issued by a variety of courts
    
    that touch on the 1903 Act and that include references to the
    
    phrase “exigencies of business.”     For example, the 1903 Act,
    
    referred to by the court as the General Railroad Act, was the
    
    focus of a dispute in chancery about the authority of railroads
    
                                    37
    to condemn.   The Vice Chancellor referred to the phrase
    
    “exigencies of business” when quoting language from the statute,
    
    but decided the matter without construing the meaning of those
    
    words.   See Benton & Holden, Inc. v. Cent. R.R. Co. of N.J., 
    122 N.J. Eq. 309
    , 313 (Ch. 1937) (discussing General Railroad Act, 3
    
    Comp. Stat., p. 4224, § 13), aff’d o.b., 
    123 N.J. Eq. 163
     (E. &
    
    A. 1938).   Instead, the Chancellor considered whether the
    
    railroad’s action, challenged as a taking, was permitted because
    
    it was done pursuant to a direction from the Board of Public
    
    Utilities (BPU).   Ibid.   Because the Legislature had amended the
    
    statute, after the railroad acted, specifically to create the
    
    authorization for a taking pursuant to a BPU directive, the
    
    Chancellor concluded that the railroad’s power to condemn based
    
    on such an order did not exist previously.     Ibid.
    
        Although the Chancellor therefore did not construe the
    
    phrase concerning exigencies, there are other published
    
    decisions that concern either the 1903 Act in general or
    
    railroads in particular that are of assistance to this Court.
    
    For example, in considering the claim of a plaintiff injured in
    
    a fall from a train platform, the Court of Errors and Appeals
    
    commented on the extent of the railroad’s duty, noting that
    
    “[t]here was no proof that the platform was not constructed in
    
    the ordinary way, nor that the space was greater than the
    
    exigencies of business required.”     Dotson v. Erie R.R. Co., 68
    
                                     
    38 N.J.L. 679
    , 685 (E. & A. 1903).     The Court reached that
    
    conclusion by considering such factors as whether the dimensions
    
    of the platform were sufficient to accommodate passengers
    
    boarding and disembarking from trains, whether the platform was
    
    close enough to the rails to permit safe entry and exit, and
    
    whether the platform provided sufficient space to allow passage
    
    when considering the fact that trains ordinarily have parts that
    
    project to the sides and may intrude on the platform.        Id. at
    
    684-85.   Read in the context of the Court’s evaluation of the
    
    duty owed to the patron of the railroad, the phrase “exigencies
    
    of business” meant general needs of the business operation.
    
    Ibid.; accord Feil v. W. Jersey & Seashore R.R. Co., 
    77 N.J.L. 502
    , 503-04 (E. & A. 1909) (affirming dismissal of law suit by
    
    passenger injured while walking along platform who unexpectedly
    
    stepped into properly designed, well-maintained depression in
    
    platform, referred to as a truckway, used by railroad to
    
    transfer luggage between cars); see also Cullen v. W. Jersey &
    
    Seashore R.R. Co., 
    85 N.J.L. 708
    , 710-11 (E. & A. 1914)
    
    (distinguishing Feil based on plaintiff’s allegation that
    
    truckway design was negligent).
    
        In an analogous context, the Supreme Court used the phrase
    
    “exigencies of business” in addressing a dispute about whether
    
    property owned by a railroad was taxable.      See State v. Haight,
    
    
    35 N.J.L. 40
    , 46 (Sup. Ct. 1870).      There, the court, in applying
    
                                      39
    the doctrine that taxation depended on actual use, relied on the
    
    phrase to comment on the difference between actual and potential
    
    use.    The court explained that “[l]ands which a company has
    
    purchased and is holding merely with a view to an appropriation
    
    to business in the future, if the exigencies of business should
    
    require them, may be said to be held as a matter of convenience
    
    to the company, and not to be necessary to the prosecution of
    
    the objects of its incorporation.”    Ibid.   As used in that
    
    context, the phrase again was used to mean needs of the day or
    
    general needs of the business.
    
           There are, as well, a number of decisions reached in
    
    disputes that have arisen in other contexts to which we may turn
    
    to shed light on the historical understanding of the phrase
    
    “exigencies of business.”    The Court of Errors and Appeals, in
    
    considering whether possessory interest in bonds should be
    
    tested in accordance with holder in due course principles, used
    
    the phrase as if it meant something more akin to convenience.
    
    See Morris Canal & Banking Co. v. Fisher, 
    9 N.J. Eq. 667
    , 699
    
    (E. & A. 1855).    That is, after commenting that bank notes are
    
    so construed, the court observed that “[b]y analogy to this
    
    class of cases, the exigencies of business have from time to
    
    time introduced other securities into the same category.”       Ibid.
    
           Likewise, the Court of Errors and Appeals used the phrase
    
    to describe a general course of business in the context of
    
                                     40
    whether a note was properly dishonored by a bank.   See Fifth
    
    Ward Sav. Bank of Jersey City v. First Nat’l Bank of Jersey
    
    City, 
    48 N.J.L. 513
    , 522 (E. & A. 1886) (observing that “[c]all
    
    loans on notes payable on demand . . . are a common method with
    
    banks of loaning unemployed funds, and it is usual to raise
    
    money, when required by the exigencies of business, on such
    
    notes and collaterals, by transferring them to other banks”).
    
        Finally, the phrase was employed by the Vice Chancellor to
    
    distinguish between forfeitures that call for the intervention
    
    of the courts of equity and those that do not.   See N. Jersey
    
    St. Ry. Co. v. S. Orange, 
    58 N.J. Eq. 83
    , 91-92 (Ch. 1899).      In
    
    that decision, the Vice Chancellor described the “class of cases
    
    comprising mercantile contracts where the exigencies of business
    
    and trade require that a party having paid a sum of money on a
    
    particular account and agreeing to pay a further sum on a
    
    certain day on the same account, and failing to pay such sum,
    
    should lose what he has already paid.”   Distinguishing that
    
    class of cases, the court declined the application by a
    
    municipality seeking to declare a forfeiture of streetcar
    
    property.   Ibid.
    
        As these decisions illustrate, when courts have been called
    
    upon to interpret the meaning of the phrase “exigencies of
    
    business” in the past, it has been regarded as a term of art.
    
    As such, it has been understood to describe generally the needs
    
                                   41
    of business, or the ordinary course of business, rather than to
    
    allude to an emergent, urgent, immediate, or pressing need.
    
    Indeed, it is the influence of our modern jurisprudence in the
    
    criminal context that has imbued the term with those notions.
    
    We conclude, as we must, that the Legislature meant the phrase
    
    “exigencies of business” to be understood in accordance with the
    
    way in which it was used at the time when the language was
    
    chosen.
    
        Moreover, that understanding of the phrase is the most
    
    sensible one when considering the way in which railroads
    
    operate.   Simply put, demanding that the railroad demonstrate
    
    that there is an urgency or an immediacy that motivates its
    
    exercise of eminent domain to acquire a tract of land, as
    
    Intermodal suggests, would require us to close our eyes to the
    
    reality of how railroads are developed and built.   Long-term
    
    planning is critical to rail transport, and we detect no basis
    
    on which to conclude that the Legislature intended to demand
    
    that railroads prove urgency, immediacy or emergency of their
    
    need for land as a prerequisite to exercising their statutory
    
    condemnation power.
    
                                    V.
    
        The judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed.
    
         CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER; JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, ALBIN and
    PATTERSON; and JUDGES RODRÍGUEZ and CUFF (both temporarily
    assigned) join in JUSTICE HOENS’s opinion.
    
                                    42
                    SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY
    
    NO.    A-117                                   SEPTEMBER TERM 2011
    
    ON CERTIFICATION TO              Appellate Division, Superior Court
    
    
    NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY
    COMPANY, a Virginia
    Corporation,
    
          Petitioner-Respondent,
    
                   v.
    
    INTERMODAL PROPERTIES, LLC,
    
          Respondent-Appellant.
    
    
    
    DECIDED             August 6, 2013
                    Chief Justice Rabner                         PRESIDING
    OPINION BY           Justice Hoens
    CONCURRING/DISSENTING OPINIONS BY
    DISSENTING OPINION BY
    
    
    CHECKLIST                              AFFIRM
    CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER                     X
    JUSTICE LaVECCHIA                        X
    JUSTICE ALBIN                            X
    JUSTICE HOENS                            X
    JUSTICE PATTERSON                        X
    JUDGE RODRÍGUEZ (t/a)                    X
    JUDGE CUFF (t/a)                         X
    TOTALS                                    7