Act by November 1 to preserve railbanking.
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) just initiated a notice of proposed rulemaking to consider a rule proposed by opponents to railbanking that would significantly limit the ability of trail proponents to preserve rail corridors for interim trail use.
The proposed rule would restrict railbanking negotiations to six 180-day extensions—essentially three years—except under “extraordinary circumstances.” Many rail-trail managers know that negotiations can unfortunately persist beyond that time, whether for regulatory, funding or other legitimate reasons.
In their announcement of the rulemaking proceeding, the STB rejected proposals to eliminate the fee waiver for public entities filing for railbanking and to enact burdensome notification requirements on trail advocates and railroads. While we are pleased the STB rejected these attacks, the intent behind these attempts and the rule to be considered is clear: Opponents want to make railbanking as difficult as possible to impede the preservation of rail corridors and development of rail-trails.
Trail managers and advocates have until Nov. 1 to file comments in opposition to the proposed rule. Commenters will then have an opportunity to reply to the comments received. While anyone can file, it will be particularly valuable for the STB to hear from those who have benefited from railbanking negotiations lasting longer than three years.
There are two ways to file:
· Use the STB’s e-filing system to attach your comments as a file. Be sure to follow all the instructions listed. Comments are classified as “Other Submissions,” which do not require a filing fee nor the creation of a user account. The docket number is EP-749-1.
· Submit a comment in paper format by sending an original and 10 copies of the filing to the Surface Transportation Board, Attn: Docket No. EP 749 (Sub-No. 1), 395 E St., SW, Washington, DC 20423-0001.
This threat to railbanking is real and worrisome.
Please add your voice to ensure the STB knows how crucial the existing railbanking process is to the development of rail-trails around the country.
The American Trails Team