RAILS-TO-TRAILS CONSERVANCY
21
IV.
RAIL-WITH-TRAIL SURVEY FINDINGS
Corridor Ownership
A majority of the rails-with-trails examined exist within or alongside privately owned rail corridors, with 28 percent owned by Class I railroads. Of the
49
trails that are completely or partially within the railroad corridor, 47 percent are within privately owned corridors, including Class I railroads. The larger,
Class I railroad companies are becoming increasingly resistant to rail-with-trail development (see Railroad Policies in Section II), although there is clearly
a precedent set by so many existing rails-with-trails in many of the Class I companies’ rights-of-way. However, this study’s survey findings indicated
that short line railroads and transit agencies often recognize the benefits of rails-with-trails, sometimes becoming a supportive stakeholder in the trail
development process.
Acquisition
As is the case with traditional rail-trail projects, there are several methods used to acquire property for rail-with-trail development. Rails-with-trails that
are located within the railroad right-of-way often obtain an easement or license agreement from the railroad. Survey findings indicate that 45 percent
of the rails-with-trails used easement or license agreements to acquire all or a portion of the trail corridor, and half of those trails negotiated with the
railroad for acquisition. Other trails purchased the trail corridor in fee or had fee ownership of the property prior to trail development. The only known
examples of a trail-managing agency providing easements to the railroad are in Pennsylvania. The Montour Trail Council provided a 30-year lease to a
natural gas company to establish new service on the Westland Branch segment of the Montour Trail (see Case Study in Section V). A 10-mile rail-with-trail
segment of the Heritage Rail-Trail County Park was leased to an excursion railroad, Steam Into History, and began operating in 2013.
Railroad corridor ownership
Public
Private — Class 1
Private — other
Unknown
37%
28%
22%
13%
Trail corridor acquisition method
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
45%
50%
Fee simple
purchase
Easement,
lease or
license
agreement
Trail agency
owned corridor
prior to trail
development
Other
Unknown/
no answer
Some trails were acquired using a combination of methods; result total exceeds 100%
Provider of easement, lease or license
agreement for trail corridor
Represents response from 37 trails; some trail managers hold agreements
with multiple types of landowners
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
Adjacent (private)
landowners
Railroad Public agency Utility company
Corridor ownership of rails-with-trails
within the railroad right-of-way
Public
Private — Class 1
Private — other
Unknown/no answer
41%
20%
27%
12%