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Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service (2007)

Chapter: Chapter Three - When the Trains Come Back

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - When the Trains Come Back." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2007. Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14115.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - When the Trains Come Back." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2007. Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14115.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - When the Trains Come Back." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2007. Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14115.
×
Page 13
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - When the Trains Come Back." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2007. Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14115.
×
Page 14
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - When the Trains Come Back." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2007. Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14115.
×
Page 15
Page 16
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - When the Trains Come Back." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2007. Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14115.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - When the Trains Come Back." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2007. Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14115.
×
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CHALLENGES AND RESTORATIONS Although examples of rail corridor restorations around the country are plentiful, restoration of rail service to abandoned or “dormant” rail alignments is far more unusual. Adjacent landowners may become accustomed to the peace and quiet afforded by extended 100-ft corridors whose industrial ori- gins grow ever more obscure as they are overtaken by wild vegetation. However, pressures to reactivate an alignment may occur through the prescribed phasing of a long-term public transportation plan (as for some urban transit systems) or because the economic circumstances surrounding the orig- inal closure of a line have changed. Only six survey respondents claimed success in the restoration of previously dormant rail corridors, with activity centered in three states: North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsyl- vania. Each of these states works from a solid, long-term funding commitment to support rail services (see the program summaries in chapter one) and are able to react to specific needs and opportunities as they arise. In other words, the value of retaining rail services and corridors is generally accepted as the starting premise for specific alignment initia- tives in these states. From the survey responses the principal challenges to restoring rail service, in order of importance, include: • Securing funding for the restoration project, • Dealing with right-of-way encroachments, • Opposition from adjacent landowners, • Discord among public agencies over the intended corri- dor use, and • Pressure from potential or actual recreational users. Despite the challenges of restoration, a number of long- dormant alignments do enjoy regular train service today. Table 4 presents some of those rail corridors. RESTORING SERVICE TO RAIL BANKED LINES One challenge faced by those seeking to restore rail service on preserved but out-of-service corridors are the interests of recreational users who may be using the alignment and are reluctant to cede their access to a more active transportation mode. Corridors preserved under terms of the National Trails Act amendments of 1983 may more easily be restored for active rail service in that these corridors have never been formally abandoned from a legal perspective; federal pre- emption is still in effect. Approximately 17% of all rail-trail mileage in the United States fits into this category (7). Specific trail segments that are federally protected for rail service restoration are shown in Table 5. The right of a prospective rail service provider to restore active rail service in a rail banked corridor was most recently reaffirmed by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in August 2005, as the STB responded to a petition from the Browns, Grayville & Poseyville Railway Company. That railway was seeking to restore service to a 22.5-mile rail line between Browns, Illinois, and Poseyville, Indiana, to serve a prospective ethanol plant. The Indiana Trails Fund had been using the corridor as a recreational trail through application of federal rail banking provisions when rail service ceased in 1998. The Fund was resisting the notice to vacate their interim use provisions. In a decision dated September 20, 2005, the STB reaffirmed the right of original or new rail service providers to access and restore service over rail banked corridors: Under the Trails Act, interim trail use is subject to the future restoration of rail service over the right-of-way. Upon agreement following the issuance of a NITU [Notice of Interim Trail Use], the abandoning carrier generally transfers the right-of-way to the trail user, but retains the right to reinstitute rail service. Thus, an interim trail use arrangement is subject to being cut off at any time [Surface Transportation Board Decision, SYB Docket No. AB-477 (Sub-No. 3X)]. Despite this broad and federally protected authority, rail line service restorations do not take place in a vacuum. Envi- ronmental and recreation groups are often among the more vocal supporters of the rail mode, given its environmental and fuel consumption advantages. Strategies to accommodate or even make allies of such organizations can be in the interest of all concerned. One such strategy is to consider “rails with trails” as part of the long-term corridor configuration. RAILS-WITH-TRAILS A possible solution for recreational interests and railways alike might be to share corridors where permitted by safety, liabil- ity, and engineering factors. In August 2002, the U.S.DOT commissioned a thorough study of Rails-with-Trails (RWT) to CHAPTER THREE WHEN THE TRAINS COME BACK 11

perform a literature review, assess current practices, and draw key conclusions from experience with the RWT initiatives across the nation. Not surprisingly, most rail carriers and trails groups approach the entire subject of RWT from very different per- spectives. RWT advocates covet the scenic terrain and favorable gradients available on rail corridor rights-of-way as well as the at least intermittent serenity of isolation from motor vehicle traffic. Rail carriers, on the other hand, are gen- erally hostile to RWT initiatives because they seldom gener- ate revenue, may carry significant liability risks, and may serve to limit or at least complicate future efforts to add rail capacity through new, parallel second main tracks, or pass- ing sidings. Access to shippers on one side of the corridor may also be limited or made more complex by the presence of the trail (see Table 6). Short line carriers are often more willing to consider rails with trails because of the short lines’ more limited train speeds and service frequencies, as well as a need to build strong, local community support in the areas they serve. Some short line groups have adopted formal trail policies, such as these from the Wheeling Corporation: 12 • The line in question must be a low-frequency, low-speed operation. • The property must be available and suitable for this type of project. • The tracks must be isolated from the trail with proper barriers. • The statutory scheme must be compatible with joint use between trails and railroads. • The trail operator must obtain proper property liability insurance. • There will be compensation to the railroad for the use their property, either through sale or lease. • The trail operator, not the railroad, will cover the im- provements to the property, along with the insurance costs. • The trail operator and/or local community groups must provide the security personnel to properly patrol and control the property (8). The issue of RWT is of particular relevance to rail ser- vice restoration in that the number of recreational users generally exceeds that of business stakeholders requiring rail freight service. Strategies that will accommodate both groups may help to achieve “critical mass” politically in State Endpoints Miles Out of Service Service Restored Operator Current Use AL Leeds–Childersburg 26 1999 2004 Norfolk Southern Atlanta Terminals Bypass IL/IN Browns–Poseyville 22.5 1998 2006 Browns, Grayville & Poseyville Railway Service to ethanol plant IN Hobart–Tolleston 9 1983 1993 Chicago Ft. Wayne & Eastern Local grain elevators MN Norwood Young America–Hanley Falls 94 2000 2002 Minnesota Prairie Line Local grain and ethanol clients NC Dillsboro–Murphy 67 1988 1989 Great Smoky Mountains Railway Passenger excursions NY Remsen–Lake Placid 119 1980 1992 Adirondack Scenic Railroad Tourist trains NY Olean–Hornell 70 1993 2003 Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad Through coal trains NY Jamestown, NY– Corry, PA 30 1993 2002 Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad Mixed local freight NY Corinth–North Creek 40 1988 2001 Upper Hudson River Railroad Tourist trains OH Zanesville–New Lexington 21 1990 2000 Ohio Central Mixed local freight OH/PA Youngstown, OH– Darlington, PA 36 1996 2001 Ohio & Pennsylvania Mixed local freight OH Cadiz–Cadiz Junction 6 1980s 2004 Columbia & Ohio River Railroad Mixed local freight PA Homer City–Cloe 17 1993 2005 Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad Mixed local freight TN Copperhill–Etowah 40 2001 2005 Hiwassee River Railroad Mine tailings and passenger excursions TN/GA Nashville– Willacoochee 14 1979 1999 Georgia and Florida Railroad Mixed local freight WV Coal Mountain 7 1985 2005 Norfolk Southern Coal WV Big Omer 2 1995 2005 Norfolk Southern Coal TABLE 4 DORMANT RAIL CORRIDORS RESTORED TO SERVICE

13 4.81 4.81 HO liarT O&B dnalhciR 2.8 2.8 KO liarT ocsirF dlO 1.5 1.5 RO klawreviR airotsA 001 001 RO liarT etatS eniL sdooW E&CO 41 41 RO rodirroC retawgnirpS 3 3 RO ettemalliW eht no retawgnirpS Houtzdale Line Rail-Trail (East) PA 4.5 4.5 Houtzdale Line Rail-Trail (West) PA 6.7 6.7 Panhandle Trail (Allegheny County) PA 6.85 6.85 14 14 AP liarT keerC eniP Pittsburgh Riverwalk at Station Square PA 1.5 1.5 2 2 AP nerraW htroN ot nerraW Youghiogheny River Trail–North PA 41 43 411 411 DS liarT noslekciM .S egroeG Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway TX 64.2 64.2 92 92 XT liarT larrapahC Denton Branch Rail-Trail (Trinity Trails System) TX 8 8 Trail Name State Length on Right-of-Way Total Length Delta Heritage Trail (Barton–Lexa) AR 4.3 4.3 31 31 AC liarT-liaR sivolC–onserF Ventura River Trail (Ojai Valley Trail Extension) CA 5 5 5.21 6 OC liarT tleB lareniM Capital Crescent Trail (Georgetown Branch Trail DC 11 11 8 5.4 LF yawneerG reviR eennawuS 1 1 AI liarT eiriarP radeC 31 31 AI liarT erutaN hsaweK 5.1 5.1 AI sneruaL Perry to Rippey Trail (Three County Trail) IA 9 9 12 12 AI liarT yellaV reviR nooccaR Raccoon River Valley Trail Extension IA 13 13 2.33 4.31 AI liarT liaR kuaS Shell Rock River Trail (Butler County Trail) IA 5.5 5.5 21 38.01 AI liarT tesremmuS 63 63 AI liarT sreviR eerhT Vinton to Dysart (Old Creamery Trail) IA 15.3 15.3 36 36 AI liarT erutaN ecarT hsabaW 01 6 AI liarT lairomeM lekniW 5.1 5.1 DI liarT draddotS ot apmaN 27 27 DI senelAíd rueoC eht fo liarT 64 64 DI liarT reviR resieW 54.7 54.7 AW ,DI liarT esuolaP nampihC lliB 6.41 6.41 LI liarT eiriarP gnoL Madison County Transit Schoolhouse Trail IL 11.5 11.5 52 12 LI liarT eiriarP ytnuoC yrneHcM Flint Hills Nature Trail (Herington) KS 4 4 Flint Hills Nature Trail (Ottawa) KS 1 1 Haskell Rail-Trail (formerly Lawrence Rail-Trail) KS 1.1 1.1 Landon Nature Trail (South Topeka) KS 1 1 33 33 SK liarT-liaR tiripS eiriarP Shortgrass Prairie Trail (Protection to Clark County Line) KS 2 2 6 6 YK liarT-liaR ytnuoC grebnelhuM 82 82 AL ecarT ynammaT 5.01 5.01 AM yawekiB nametuniM Saint John Valley Heritage Trail ME 0.4 18 Avon to Sauk Center (Lake Wobegon Extension) MN 28 28 4 4 OM yawneerG ocsirF 81 81 OM liarT enilhgiH ocsirF 8 8 OM liarT s’tnarG 5.422 5.422 OM )niaM( kraP etatS liarT ytaK 6.0 6.0 SM )dnalevelC( klaW eitssorC 14 14 SM ecarT faelgnoL 3.5 3.5 CN liarT-liaR niwrE–nnuD Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail NE 47 47 2 2 EN liarT bulC dleiF 21 21 EN liarT keerC kaO 4.12 4.12 EN liarT ecarT taobmaetS 01 01 EN liarT reviR etihW 1.2 1.2 YN liarT liaR latseV TABLE 5 OPEN RAIL-TRAILS ON RAIL BANKED CORRIDORS (continued on next page)

overcoming local opposition to renewed line service. Although federally rail banked corridors (as described in the previous section) carry a presumption of renewed rail ser- vice whenever and wherever needed, it should be recalled that more than 80% of existing rail trails have no such fed- eral protection. URBAN TRANSIT DEVELOPMENT Some cities and metropolitan planning authorities have pre- served urban rail corridors whose use as local freight gather- ing lines became economically unfeasible during the long exodus of heavy industry from the core of America’s urban areas. The specific future use of such alignments need not be specified at the time of preservation; however, highly visible reminders can serve to inform the public that a more active use of a given corridor is a definite future possibility. Various county rail authorities in the St. Paul–Minneapolis region of Minnesota have together preserved approximately 80 miles of former freight rail rights-of-way for future transit development purposes. Corridors used on an interim basis as recreation trails are conspicuously posted (see Figure 2). Landowners with properties abutting the corridors are also required to disclose future potential transit of the alignments as part of the real estate disclosure process whenever properties are sold. Specific planning studies are slated for 2007 to deter- mine best uses of two such alignments, the Red Rock and Rush line corridors from downtown St. Paul. The St. Louis Metrolink System made excellent use of preserved rail properties in their launch of the region’s first 14 modern light rail system in 2003. Fourteen miles of the ini- tial 17-mile system were placed on preserved rights-of-way, including the 19th century Eads Bridge to East St. Louis, rail freight tunnels under the downtown core (see Figure 3) and a former Wabash Railroad alignment northwestward toward the St. Louis International Airport. A number of extensions and new alignments are planned; those including current trails are posted as future Metro service routes. TAKING STOCK: CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RAIL INVENTORY In 2001, California’s governor directed the California DOT (Caltrans) to “identify the status of all the rail corridors in the state and evaluate their relative importance and po- tential for future rail passenger service” (9). The depart- ment was also asked to “identify abandoned rail corridors that have potential for use by non-motorized transportation and as links to improve access to public transit.” California has a formal policy to preserve rail rights-of-way and to “acquire abandoned railroad lines when the right-of-way for such lines has a potential public transportation use, including but not limited to, a use for highways, bus ways, bicycles, pedestrians, or guide ways” (California Streets and Highway Code, Section 2540). The purpose of the 2001 assessment was to provide information to local trans- portation planning agencies for consideration in local plan- ning efforts. Various joint-powers agencies in different regions of the state have used the inventory as a fundamen- tal planning tool when considering future options for rail corridor use. Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail State Park UT 28 28 01 01 TU liarT liaR niatnuoM elttiL 7.1 85.1 AV liarT dleifelttaB kcoR gnignaH 50.4 50.4 TV rupS ebeeB Burlington Waterfront Bikeway VT 7.6 7.6 5.62 5.62 TV liarT-liaR yellaV iouqsissiM Cascade Trail (Sedro–Woolley to Concrete) WA 22.3 22.3 5.71 5.71 AW liarT reviR radeC Chehalis to Raymond (Raymond to Southbend Riverfront Trail) WA 3.5 3.5 13 13 AW liarT tatikcilK Milwaukee Road Corridor (John Wayne Pioneer Trail) WA 145 145 Snoqualmie Valley Trail Extension (1 mile gap) WA 10 10 4.21 4.21 IW noitcnuJ ocsaC ot amoglA Bayfield County Snowmobile Trail WI 55 65 8.71 8.71 IW liarT liattaC Fox River Trail (Green Bay to Greenleaf) WI 13.5 13.5 4.38 5.08 IW liarT etatS yaB–niatnuoM 9.52 9.52 IW liarT eniL eniP Rice Lake to Superior Trail (Chippewa Falls to Superior) WI 90 90 51 51 IW liarT etatS reviR worromoT 67 67 VW liarT reviR reirbneerG Panhandle Trail (Colliers to WV/PA Line) WV 4.4 4.4 Trail Name State Length on Right-of-Way Total Length 47.3 47.3 XT )sallaD( liarT ytaK Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway TX 20 20 TABLE 5 (Continued)

15 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Trail Orange County Transportation Authority Amtrak, Southern California Regional Rail CA IW cificaP noinU ytnuoC ahsekuaW liarT enilguB Burlington Waterfront Bikeway Vermont Agency of Transportation Vermont Railway Co. VT fo ytiC )02-RS( liarT edacsaC Burlington/Skagit County Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway WA fo troP dna ytiC liarT hsimawuD Seattle Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway WA Eastern Promenade Trail Maine Department of Transportation Maine Narrow Gauge ME AP XSC hgrubsttiP fo ytiC liarT ecanruF azilE Folsom Parkway Rail-Trail Regional Transit Authority Regional Transit Authority CA Great Lakes Spine Trail Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Dickinson County, cities Chicago Northwestern Transportation Co. IA Trail Name Corridor Owner Railroad Operation Location sdaorliaR I ssalC AP nwonknU nrehtuoS klofroN liarT muterobrA nrehtroN notgnilruB liarT ekaL radeC Santa Fe Burlington Northern MN Celina/Coldwater Bike Trail Norfolk Southern RJ Corman OH aigroeG/XTAG/xetliaR nrehtuoS klofroN klawreviR submuloC Southwestern Railroad Co. GA Eastbank Esplanade/Steel Bridge Riverwalk Union Pacific Union Pacific, Amtrak OR VW nrehtuoS klofroN nrehtuoS klofroN liarT reviR klE IM nrehtuoS klofroN nrehtuoS klofroN liarT kraP pullaG Huffman Prairie Overlook Trail CSX CSX and Grand Trunk Western OH nrehtuoS klofroN liarT reviR lliklyuhcS (3.2 km/2 mi) Norfolk Southern PA AP & HO XSC XSC liarT elcyciB hcivatS OC cificaP noinU cificaP noinU liarT cificaP noinU Zanesville Riverfront Bikepath Norfolk Southern CSX and Norfolk Southern OH thgierF rehtO ro II ssalC ,denwO yletavirP Blackstone River Bikeway Providence and Worcester Railroad Providence and Worcester Railroad RI Central Ashland Bike Path Rail America Rail America OR Clarion–Little Toby Creek Trail Buffalo to Pittsburgh Railroad Buffalo to Pittsburgh Railroad PA AI lanoitaN adanaC lanoitaN adanaC liarT egatireH Lehigh Gorge River Trail Reading & Northern Railroad Co. Reading & Northern Railroad Co. PA Lower Yakima Valley Pathway Washington Central Washington Central WA LI cificaP noinU cificaP noinU liarT KRM IM daorliaR etatS ekaL daorliaR etatS ekaL liarT daorliaR Rock River Recreation Path Union Pacific Union Pacific IL Silver Creek Bike Trail Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern MN Tony Knowles Coastal Bicycle Trail Alaska Railroad Corp. Alaska Railroad Corp. AK yellaV norramiC kraP potS eltsihW Railroad Cimarron Valley Railroad KS Excursion/Short Line, Publicly or Privately Owned Land Animas River Greenway Trail Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad CO dipaR aerA sallaD liarT tleB nottoC Transit Ft. Worth & Western Railroad TX fo .tpeD eniaM liarT edanemorP nretsaE Transportation Maine Narrow Gauge ME Heritage Rail Trail County Park York County Northern Central Railway Inc. PA AM ecivreS kraP lanoitaN ecivreS kraP lanoitaN liarT lanaC llewoL MN nrehtuoS eF atnaS nrehtuoS eF atnaS liarT liaR eF atnaS Publicly Owned Railroad Corridors, Passenger or Freight TABLE 6 EXAMPLES OF ACTIVE RWTS BY CORRIDOR TYPE AND OWNERSHIP (continued on next page)

16 graphic information systems information as it was developed for the rail and nonmotorized facilities audit. Evaluation of the rail corridors for passenger rail or tran- sit use was grounded on the natural pairing of demand and feasibility—does the public want the potential service and is it feasible to provide such service by means of the facility in question? Demand ratings were developed based on criteria such as: • Travel demand from Intermodal Transportation Man- agement System and regional planning models. TM dnaldiM sasnakrA aneleH fo ytiC liarT gniklaW eeveL Myrtle Edwards Park Trail City and Port of Seattle Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway WA tisnarT lanoigeR liarT reviR ettalP District Denver Rail Heritage Society CO tisnarT hatU liarT llewkcoR retroP Authority TRAX UT odaroloC fo ytiC liarT dnalsI kcoR Springs Denver & Rio Grande Western CO Rose Canyon Bike Path Metropolitan Transit District Board Amtrak and Santa Fe CA Seattle Waterfront Pathway City of Seattle METRO Transit WA Southwest Corridor Park Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak MA Three Rivers Heritage Trail City of Pittsburgh CSX PA Traction Line Recreation Trail New Jersey Transit Authority NJ Transit and Norfolk Southern NJ Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART) Michigan Department of Transportation Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Railroad MI Watts Towers Crescent Greenway Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metropolitan Transportation Authority CA AC XSC skraP ytnuoC egnarO liarT egnarO tseW Trail Name Corridor Owner Railroad Operation Location La Crosse River State Trail State of Wisconsin Canadian Pacific Railway, Inc., Amtrak WI Heritage Rail Trail County Park York County Northern Central Railway, Inc. PA TABLE 6 (Continued) FIGURE 2 Washington County, Minnesota, trail posting. (Source: Washington County Department of Public Works.) FIGURE 3 St. Louis Metrolink train emerging from one of the historic freight rail tunnels in the core of the city. (Source: World Tram and Trolleybus Systems: http://ymtram.mashke.org/.) California’s first, comprehensive geographic information systems-encoded database of all rail corridors and bicycle and pedestrian facilities was developed by the study team. Each rail corridor was evaluated as to its potential for joint use or reuse for rail passenger service, nonmotorized transport, or transit access linkages. Classifications for reuse were based both on objective technical specifications and input received through a comprehensive public involvement process. A 150- member Stakeholder Advisory Committee was created, in- cluding railway, local public agency, recreation, and regional planning agency representatives. The committee participated in each phase of the study process and was encouraged to reg- ularly access a special website that tracked and updated geo-

17 • Connections to similar transit facilities within a speci- fied distance. • Population density within five miles of potential station stops. • Accessibility to major traffic generators. • Local support as reflected in local and regional planning documents. Feasibility elements for passenger or transit operations included: • Engineering geometrics, • Intensity and speed of freight service, • Level of interest from regional agencies, and • Safety concerns as derived from grade crossings per mile and U.S.DOT accident prediction models. The combination of demand and feasibility for each line was then used to give an overall line categorization. • High-demand, high-feasibility. Corridors are consid- ered to have “high” potential for development. • High-demand, low-feasibility. Corridors may be devel- oped to meet a strong public demand, but the develop- ment will be very challenging. • Low-demand, high-feasibility. Corridors are considered “low” potential at present, but should perhaps be pre- served for future use. • Low-demand, low-feasibility. Very low potential align- ments; no action required. Results from the study have been shared with Caltrans dis- trict and metropolitan planning organization/regional plan- ning agencies. An “Abandoned Railroad Account” has long been designated in the State Transportation Fund as a vehicle to support local preservation efforts; however, it has received little if any actual funding. In California, the removal of rail track infrastructure from a rail banked corridor triggers requirements for a full environ- mental review, if and when an interested party seeks to replace the removed rails. No such restoration has ever occurred in California.

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TRB's National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 374: Preserving Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors and Service explores issues associated with the retention of railroad rights-of-way or restoration of rail services.

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