News & Publications

Rail Law Alert – Surface Transportation Board Issues Final Ruling On Railbanking

Surface Transportation Board Extends Initial Trail Use Negotiating Period

The Surface Transportation Board issued a final rule regarding railbanking on December 4, 2019, extending the initial trail use negotiating period to one year, and allowing for up to three additional one-year extensions, and further extensions at the STB’s discretion in light of “extraordinary circumstances”.  The rule will be in effect on February 2, 2020.  Here is a copy of the Federal Register Notice announcing the final rule.

Where a freight railroad intends to abandon a rail line and an applicant seeks STB authority to serve as the interim trail sponsor, the rule establishes a one year period within which a railroad and interim trail sponsor may negotiate a trail use agreement and railbank the line.  Railbanking allows the railroad to discontinue service, but preserves the line under federal jurisdiction in order to potentially re-instate freight rail service in the future.

Under the current rule, the initial trail use negotiation period is 180 days.  Extensions are granted at the STB’s discretion upon request, typically for 180 day increments as a matter of practice, and there is no limit to the number of extensions the Board may grant.

The longer trail use negotiation period should alleviate the administrative burden on trail sponsors by reducing the number of requests for extensions that may need to be filed over the course of extended negotiations.

Please contact Allison Fultz, Chuck Spitlunik, Suzanne Silverman or Byron Smith if you have any questions about this final rule.