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Not for Sale

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Analysis and Modeling 41 erally quite low, and the sale price is primarily a function of the corridor's real estate value. This value depends on many local factors and would be beyond the scope of this Guidebook to sug- gest methodologies to estimate a fair purchase price. In most cases, the track and signal systems (if any) have to be completely replaced. The rail freight operator usually is given permanent access to the corridor to provide ongoing service, subject to time-of-day restrictions so that freight operations do not interfere with the proposed passenger operation. Directly Fund Infrastructure Improvements. Commuter rail agencies can directly fund infrastructure improvements sufficient to provide the capacity consumed by the passenger rail service, plus any signaling and track quality improvements required for passenger service. This approach would be used where the host railroad is willing to accommodate the passenger ser- vice but requires that existing capacity for freight operations is preserved, including maintaining spare capacity for future freight growth. A freight railroad may also require that capacity is main- tained at specific times of day, depending on the type of freight traffic using the corridor. In other instances, the commuter and freight railroads have agreed on a combined package of invest- ments, with costs shared, to serve passenger service requirement as well as anticipated freight traffic growth. Every case is different and must be worked out in negotiations. There are several examples of this approach, such as improvements on Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX in Northern Virginia for the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter services into Washington, D.C. Often the improvements are not a one-time investment but are a series of projects imple- mented as required by passenger and freight traffic growth. Purchase a Permanent Easement. A permanent easement can be purchased for a speci- fied commuter rail service (number of trips, schedule, journey time, etc.). This option has two sub-options: Acquire an easement to construct a separate commuter rail line parallel to a freight line within the existing railroad ROW. This option is selected when it is not technically feasible or is very difficult for the commuter rail service to share track with the freight operation, and lateral space exists within the existing ROW. The commuter rail agency is responsible for construct- ing the commuter tracks, signal systems, stations, etc. This option has been used for the Gold commuter rail line in Denver and the Front Runner service north from Salt Lake City. As with outright purchase of a rail corridor, price will depend on local circumstances. Purchase a permanent easement to operate commuter rail service on the tracks of the host rail- road for a lump sum. The easement seller guarantees access for a specified number of passenger rail trips to specified schedules and trip times and is responsible for making infrastructure invest- ments to honor this agreement. This option bundles the cost of access with the cost of infrastruc- ture improvement. Because of the bundling, and the permanence of the agreement, it may be difficult to compare the lump sum payment with alternative estimates of access and infrastruc- ture improvement costs, and to justify the payment to funding agencies. The primary example of this approach is the Sounder commuter service northward from Seattle. As well as these two sub-options, access and infrastructure improvement costs can be con- verted into a per-train-mile usage cost to be paid as incurred. This approach was used for the Sounder service between Seattle and Tacoma in Washington State. Hybrid arrangements are also possible, using some mix of public funding of infrastructure improvements, a one-time capital payment, and ongoing per-mile charges. 3.3.2 Estimating Capital Costs The majority of corridor access arrangements, whether for Amtrak intercity or commuter service, place the responsibility for funding and implementing corridor infrastructure improve- ments on the passenger rail agency developing the service. It is assumed that the passenger rail