WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board announced it will hold a public hearing July 8 to examine the impact, effectiveness, and future of rail banking under the National Trails System Act (Trails Act).
Rail banking is the preservation of railroad corridors for possible future rail use. In 1983, Congress amended the Trails Act to create a program to allow rail banking to permit rail corridors that otherwise would be abandoned to be used as recreational trails on an interim basis.
Such trails are subject to restoration as rail corridors at any point in time. The Trails Act and the Board’s implementing regulations give interested parties the opportunity to negotiate voluntary agreements for trails on rail rights-of-way slated for abandonment.
A trail sponsor is required to assume responsibility for trail management, liability in connection with a trail’s use, and payment of property taxes on the right-of-way. In turn, the railroad owning the right-of-way may salvage its track and discontinue service on the line. If parties reach a Trails Act agreement, the right-of-way can be used as a trail until (if ever) a railroad decides to restore service over line.
In recent years, an increasing number of questions have been brought to the Board, both formally and informally, regarding various aspects of the rail banking program. Accordingly, the Board is inviting parties to comment on the rail banking program in general and on the future of rail banking in an era of constrained rail infrastructure.