Rail banking not in the bank, yet | AspenTimes.com

Rail banking not in the bank, yet

Jeremy Heiman

Efforts to provide rail service and create a trail the length of the Roaring Fork Valley have suffered another delay, though it may be only a minor one.The Surface Transportation Board, the federal agency that regulates railroads, has postponed its decision on whether to allow rail banking of the corridor owned by the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority. RFRHA Executive Director Tom Newland said the board has told RFRHA to expect a decision in another two to four weeks.Rail banking is a legal procedure that allows the owner of a rail line to retain ownership while no service or other activity is taking place on the line.A decision on the rail banking request had been expected from the board by March 26, based on RFRHA’s application last year.”We were under the impression they had a 10-month deadline,” Newland said. But the decision was postponed because of a legal motion RFRHA filed last November. RFRHA submitted a motion to dismiss a bid by the owners of a Salt Lake City firm to acquire the rail corridor between Glenwood Springs and Woody Creek.”The clock isn’t running because of our motion to dismiss,” Newland said.Although RFRHA owns the rail right of way, other investors can ask the Surface Transportation Board to allow them to purchase it and manage it in the way they see fit. Such an offer is called an offer of financial assistance.”That’s one of the risks you take as a rail line owner,” Newland said.Attempting to acquire the corridor are Morris H. Kulmer and Kern W. Schumacher, president and chairman, respectively, of A&K Railroad Materials Co. of Salt Lake City, a nationwide rail salvage company. Kulmer and Schumacher also run a short-line freight railroad in California, and requested permission to buy the RFRHA line to provide freight service. RFRHA’s motion to dismiss was based on the knowledge that Kulmer and Schumacher sold the rails for salvage from other rail lines they have acquired.RFRHA is seeking rail banking to protect the right of way until planning studies and an environmental assessment are completed. As owner of the rail line, RFRHA might have a legal obligation to deliver freight cars, for which RFRHA is unequipped at the present.To guard against such claims and obligations, RFRHA applied last May to the federal Surface Transportation Board for rail banking status.

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