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A right-of-way is a right to make a way over a piece of land, usually to and from another piece of land. A right of way is a type of easement granted or reserved over the land for transportation purposes, such as for a footway, carriageway, trail, driveway, rail line or highway. A right-of-way is reserved for the purposes of maintenance or expansion of existing services with the right-of-way. In the case of an easement, it may revert to its original owners if the facility is abandoned.
In the United States, railroad rights-of-way are generally considered private property by the respective railroad owners and by applicable state laws. Most U.S. railroads employ their own police forces, who can arrest and prosecute trespassers found on their rights-of-way. Some railroad rights-of-way include recreational rail trails.
Sometimes, in residential areas, building setbacks are based on a street right-of-way, as opposed to the front property line.
Uses other than rail transport 
Railroad rights-of-way need not exclusively be for railroad tracks and related equipment. Easements are frequently given to permit the laying of communication cables (such as optical fiber) or natural gas pipelines, or to run electric power transmission lines overhead.
In Ireland, pedestrian rights of way to churches, known as mass paths, have existed for centuries. In other cases, the modern law is unclear; on the one hand, Victorian era laws on easements protect a property owner's rights, amplified by the 1937 constitution, which stipulate that a right of way has to be specifically dedicated to public use. Opposing these, those claiming general rights of way hark back to an anti-landed gentry position that has endured since the Land War of the 1880s. Rights of way can be asserted by Adverse possession, but proving continuous use can be difficult. A case heard in 2010 concerning claims over the Lissadell House estate was based on the historical laws, since amended by the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act, 2009.
The 2009 Act abolished the doctrine of lost modern grant, and allows a user to claim a right of way after 12 year of use across private land owned by another, 30 years on state land and 60 years on the foreshore. The claim must be confirmed by a court order and duly registered, an expensive process. The user must prove "enjoyment without force, without secrecy and without the oral or written consent of the .. owner", a restatement of the centuries-old principle of Nec vi, nec clam, nec precario.
See also 
- Henry Campbell Black, A law dictionary containing definitions of the terms and phrases of American and English jurisprudence, ancient and modern: and including the principal terms of international, constitutional, ecclesiastical, and commercial law, and medical jurisprudence, with a collection of legal maxims ... "Right-of-way"(West Publishing Co., 1910), pg. 1040 http://books.google.com/books?id=R2c8AAAAIAAJ&vq=right+of+way&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- The constitution guarantees the "life, person, good name and property rights of every citizen" (Article 40.3)
- Lissadell owners' case, reported Jan 2010; and a group opposed to the current laws.
- http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2009/en/act/pub/0027/sec0033.html 2009 Act, s.33