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RLTD Ry. Corp. v. Surface Transp. Bd.

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 20615
Nos. No. 96-4142, 166 F.3d 808/(6th Cir., 01/28/1999)

The court holds that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) lacks jurisdiction to grant a railroad's application to abandon a segment of its rail line. The court first holds that the STB lost jurisdiction over the line through a de facto abandonment. A de facto abandonment occurred because the line was no longer linked to a part of the interstate rail system. The court next holds that the STB correctly determined that it does not have jurisdiction over lines that are no longer part of the national trail system. The STB's power may extend to approval of abandonment of purely local lines operated by regulated carriers when the overriding interests of interstate commerce require it. Here, however, the railroad is not an interstate carrier, and the STB has not found it in the overriding interests of interstate commerce to assume abandonment jurisdiction. The court also holds that the National Trails Act does not broaden the jurisdiction of the STB so that the STB may undertake railbanking proceedings where it would not otherwise hear an abandonment application. The railroad's interpretation of the National Trails Act would bring virtually every track in the United States within STB jurisdiction whenever an interim trail use was sought, no matter how insignificant the track to the interstate rail system.

The court then holds that substantial evidence supports the STB's determination that the line was severed from the interstate rail system. The stretch of track at issue has long been abandoned, and no other connection from the railroad's track to the interstate rail system exists. Last, the court holds that the STB's reversal of its decision in a notice of exemption and interim trail use or abandonment was not arbitrary and capricious. The notice, which was published in the Federal Register, merely alerted the public as to the proceedings and was not a binding decision.

Counsel for Petitioners
Devin S. Schindler
Warner, Norcross & Judd
900 Old Kent Bldg.
111 Lyon St. NW, Grand Rapids MI 49503
(616) 459-6121

Counsel for Respondents
Evelyn G. Kitay
Surface Transportation Board
1925 K St. NW, Washington DC 20423
(202) 565-1674

Before Keith and Kennedy, JJ.