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Firm Clients King County, WA, and Sound Transit Prevail in STB Dispute to Protect Railbanked Corridor

On December 30, 2014, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) issued a decision denying a request from a private shortline railroad, Ballard Terminal Railroad, seeking authority to reinstitute rail service on a railbanked railroad corridor owned by several local governmental entities near Seattle, Washington and denying Ballard’s request to vacate the STB’s order “railbanking” the corridor pursuant to the National Trails System Act.  Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell clients King County, Washington and Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit), together with other regional government entities, had made a significant investment to acquire the corridor for use as a recreational trail and commuter rail line, as well as other public uses, and to preserve the corridor for potential future rail use.  Ballard’s petitions threatened those plans by proposing to replace those public uses with a speculative, low volume freight railroad service. Although railbanked corridors are subject to the reinstatement of rail service, the STB found that Ballard was not a “bona fide” petitioner because it had not demonstrated sufficient evidence of financing or shipper demand to warrant reactivation of the corridor.  This is the latest in a string of favorable STB decisions for Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell on behalf of King County and Sound Transit regarding this corridor.