Rails to Trails
Only rail lines that the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) has authorized for abandonment can be converted to trail use. In accordance with 49 CFR 1152.29 and 16 USC 1247 (d) (the National Trails Act), the STB may defer rail line abandonment to give interested parties the opportunity to negotiate a voluntary agreement with the railroad company for interim use of the right-of-way for recreational trails. Timing is critical to file comments or concerns. Any request for a public use condition under 49 USC. 10905 and any request for a trail use condition under 16 USC. 1247(d) must be filed within 45 days after the abandonment application is filed by the railroad.
Parties interested in acquiring or using the railroad’s right-of-way for interim trail use and rail banking under the National Trails Act must submit a written request or petition to the Surface Transportation Board with a copy to the railroad, indicating their desire to use the right-of-way for trail purposes. The request or petition must include:
- A map and an accurate description of the right-of-way or portion that is proposed to be acquired or used for trail purposes.
- A statement indicating the user's willingness to assume full responsibility for managing the right-of-way, any legal liability arising out of the use of right-of-way, indemnify the railroad against any potential liability; and the payment of any and all taxes assessed against the right-of-way.
- Acknowledgment that interim trail use is subject to the user continuing its responsibilities described above and subject to possible future reconstruction and reactivation of the right-of-way to rail service.