Monday, March 10, 2014

Major blow to the Rail Trail Movement, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court

From NPR -- The federal government loses its control of land that's granted to railroad companies after the track has been abandoned, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. The court sided with a private landowner in Wyoming who is fighting efforts to convert disused tracks into a bike path near his house.

The court's decision overturns decisions by district and appeals courts. The wider impact of the ruling is difficult to estimate, partly because the U.S. government doesn't have a central database of the land it owns under such circumstances, according to the SCOTUS blog .

The justices and attorneys acknowledged that uncertainty during oral arguments over the case in January.

"For all I know, there is some right-of-way that goes through people's houses, you know," Justice Stephen Breyer said, "and all of a sudden, they are going to be living in their house and suddenly a bicycle will run through it."

Today's ruling could have "implications for about 80 other cases involving some 8,000 claimants," according to USA Today. "Tens of thousands of other property owners also could emerge as victors." [Full article HERE]

Abandoned Railroads make the best shared use pathways, because of their long, relatively uninterupted rights of way. This ruling could allow past claimants to virtually shut down, or even reclaim railroad property repurposed for such use.
Related: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Heads to the Supreme Court in the Defense of Rail-Trails

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