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Glosemeyer v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas R.R.

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 21156
Nos. No. 86-2508C(6), 685 F. Supp. 1108/(E.D. Mo., 05/10/1988)

The court rules that the National Trails System Act's (NTSA's) grant of authority to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to allow interim use of railroad rights-of-way as recreational trails does not violate the Commerce Clause. The state of Missouri had protested a railroad's application to the ICC to abandon 200 miles of right-of-way, asking the ICC to allow use of the right-of-way as a recreational trail pursuant to NTSA §8(d) while requiring retention of the railroad corridor for future reinstatement of rail service. The court first holds that it does not have jurisdiction to consider the challenge to the ICC's NTSA regulations by landowners claiming reversionary interests to the right-of-way, since challenges to the regulations must be brought in the courts of appeal. The court does, however, have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the statute itself. The court then rules that §8(d) does not violate the Commerce Clause. Congress' goal of preserving abandoned railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation of rail service is rational, and its encouragement of interim trail use is reasonably related to this goal. The language and legislative history of §8(d) indicate that it is intended to further the policies of other legislation in which Congress had expressed concern over railroad abandonments and their effect on the interstate rail network, as well as to encourage the recreational and conservation policies of the NTSA. By providing for interim use of the rights-of-way as trails, rights-of-way can be maintained for future railroad use, rather than having ownership revert to the abutting landowner.

The court rules that §8(d) does not constitute an unconstitutional impairment of the obligation of contracts. The Contract Clause of the United States Constitution applies only to state, not to federal, legislation. The landowners' Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause argument also fails, since even if §8(d) impairs private contractual rights between the landowners and the railroad, Congress acted rationally in enacting §8(d). The court holds that the landowners' claim that §8(d) constitutes a temporary regulatory taking of their property is premature, since they have not sought compensation in the Claims Court pursuant to the Tucker Act. The court holds that plaintiffs have an adequate remedy available to them under the Tucker Act. Although §8(d) does not expressly provide for a Claims Court remedy, the question is not whether Congress granted such a remedy but whether it has, in a particular statute, withdrawn the Claims Court's Tucker Act authority. There is no such withdrawal in §8(d) or its legislative history. The court holds that Missouri has not taken plaintiffs' property within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the Fifth Amendment applies to the states by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, the state was lawfully acting pursuant to a valid federal statute when it requested the interim trail use. Moreover, plaintiffs have not sought compensation under state procedures. Finally, the court holds that §8(d) preempts state law, including the due process and impairment of obligations of contracts clauses in the Missouri Constitution, to the extent that such law would allow reversion of the right-of-way while it is being used on an interim basis as a trail under §8(d).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Ronald R. McMillin
Carson, Coil, Riley, McMillin, Levine & Veit
211 East Capitol Ave., P.O. Box 235, Jefferson City MO 65102
(314) 636-2177

Counsel for Defendants
Henry D. Menghini
Evans & Dixon
16th Fl., Marquette Bldg., 314 N. Broadway, St. Louis MO 63102-2093
(314) 621-7755

Counsel for Intervenors
Leland B. Curtis, Harold Bamburg
Curtis, Bamburg, Oelting, Brackman & Crossen
130 S. Bemiston, Suite 200, St. Louis MO 63105
(314) 725-8788