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Center and Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. This broad spectrum of
involvement—representing the intersecting fields of public health, economic
development and community building—reflects the heart of our UPI work.
A trail is never just a trail. With the right planning and initiative, an urban
pathway can become the backbone of a vibrant, active and healthy community.
Legal Landmark
For several years, RTC has been intimately involved in promoting the
Harsimus Stem Embankment, or Sixth Street Embankment, a six-block
elevated corridor in Jersey City, N.J. Built in the early 1900s, the block-long
segments of the embankment carried seven rail lines 27 feet above street level,
connected by steel bridges between each block. The bridges were removed in
the mid-1990s, but now the city, the Harsimus Embankment Preservation
Coalition, RTC and other supporters are working to redevelop the line as an
elevated linear park in the model of New York City’s High Line.
In 2005, a development company purchased the embankment site
from Conrail and stated their intention to demolish the structure and build
townhouses along the corridor. This sale, however, ignored long-established
federal rail abandonment legislation that affords significant opportunities
to protect and preserve rail corridors for continued and future public use as
a transportation corridor—an effort to mitigate the loss of the rail line as a
public asset.
RTC was one of three groups, along with Jersey City and the
embankment coalition, to challenge the legality of the sale of the embankment
to developers. With many millions of dollars at stake, lawyers for the
developer responded with a complex series of appeals and motions, including
a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit, filed against
RTC, RTC’s lawyers and the other opponents of the sale.
The purpose of a SLAPP suit is to tie up public advocates and nonprofit
groups in expensive legal proceedings and force them to back down. And it
often works—but not this time.
In July, the Superior Court of New Jersey dismissed the SLAPP suit and
ruled in favor of RTC, the embankment coalition and the city. It was a huge
win for trail development and an exciting potential urban project. While the
developers have appealed the decision, the provisional dismissal of the SLAPP
suit has allowed RTC, Jersey City and the coalition to continue their legal
fight to preserve the embankment. The case is set to be heard by the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on October 18, 2011.
Right on, Redmond!
In June, the federal Surface Transportation
Board denied a petition filed by GNP Rail-
way, which sought to reactivate rail service
on the Redmond Spur/Woodinville Subdivi-
sion, a railbanked corridor in King County,
Wash. RTC field comments addressing the
policy implications of whether a third-party
railroad operator, which has acquired no
property or regulatory rights from the aban-
doning carrier, can reactivate rail service on
a railbanked corridor. The board’s decision
authorized the city of Redmond to remove
the tracks and ties over a two-mile segment
of rail corridor through downtown. The city
has since completed the salvage project and
plans to build a trail on the railbanked right-
of-way in 2012.
High Honors
Andrea Ferster, general counsel for RTC since 1992, was elected treasurer of the
D.C. Bar Board of Governors in June. The D.C. Bar is the second-largest unified bar
association in the country; it is governed by a 20-member board of governors.
Technical Expertise
In San Francisco, our Western Regional Office
completed two reports that address compli-
cated trail and roadway treatments in urban
environments. In January, we published
Across the Arterial—Midblock Shared-Use
Path Crossings of Multilane Roadways in
California
.
The report provides solutions for
managing challenging at-grade trail cross-
ings of busy roads as safely and seamlessly
as possible for all pedestrians and motorists
involved.
In August, we released
Better Bikeways—
Innovative Facilities for Safe Bicycling in Cali-
fornia
,
which explores exciting new bicycle
facilities, including cycle tracks and bicycle
boulevards, that can help draw more people
out on two wheels.