What is Railbanking?
Railbanking (as defined by the National Trails System Act, 16 USC 1247 (d)) is a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service rail corridor as a trail until some railroad might need the corridor again for rail service. Because a railbanked corridor is not considered abandoned, it can be sold, leased or donated to a trail manager without reverting to adjacent landowners. The railbanking provisions of the National Trails System Act as adopted by Congress in 1983 have preserved 4,431 miles of rail corridors in 33 states that would otherwise have been abandoned.
Opponents of railbanking have unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the railbanking provisions of the National Trails System Act in the United States Supreme Court and continue their efforts to stop implementation through onerous legislative restrictions on trail development introduced regularly in Congress. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy remains vigilant in monitoring legislative and legal assaults on railbanking and will continue to build support in favor of the railbanking statute in the future. The 4,431 miles of preserved rail corridor are a testament to the importance of the act.