Idyllic Trains Yield to Hellish Bicycles?

One to watch, as seen shared on Chesapeake Bay Foundation Exec. Director Harry Campbell’s LinkedIn page:

“Court Ruling in Land Dispute could Threaten Bike Trails”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/10/supreme-court-railroad-land-dispute/6252835/

The following quote from an adjoining land owner is key to the argument, from both a legal and justice concern:

“They want to bring a train through here, that’s fine. We never expected and we never agreed to a bicycle trail.”

This suit wasn’t brought to protect the right to build a railroad. It was cynically (almost perversely so) brought to keep a bike path from wrecking the perpetually empty road this right-of-way guarantees. The speaker is OK with a train, I suspect because it is less likely than a bike path. I further suspect the speaker is not really fine with a train next to home and garden.

To which Eva Wright responded: “That may be true but the other point is the assertion of using the land as it was intended. In this case the government agreed to use the land only for a railroad. Then they changed the nature of the agreement to a bike trail. It can be looked at as negotiating in bad faith.”

Valid concern, Eva. I used to do quite a bit of land development for Rail-to-Trail bike paths. Those usually depend on the notion of maintaining it as a “transportation corridor”, as does the permitting of them, at least in PA. If bike path is too much of a stretch from railroad, though, the adjoining land owners have fairly raised a limitation of the common understanding of what a Right-of-Way includes…and excludes.

If I were fighting one, I would also focus on their biggest weakness by far, as noted by Chief Justice Roberts: “strikes me as pretty unusual that the government doesn’t know what it owns.” Metes and bounds plots, but even more so, the accompanying deeds for interstate rail R/W’s, tend to lack enough info to say where the boundaries are. Check one out sometime: they are pretty flimsy, as legal documents go…rendered even more flimsy once the original rails are removed as is often the case.

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About steventodd

Both parties are broken by big money...what to do? I'm a dad, husband, son, taxpayer, voter, civil engineer, reporter, blogger, rabble-rouser and honest guy.
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