Rail-to-Trails Program Costly to Taxpayers

What could go wrong adapting old railway lines for recreation?

, The National Law Journal


What to do with thousands of miles of unwanted, unused railroad tracks? Turn them into recreational trails for biking and hiking, with the caveat that if ever needed in the future, they'd be returned to the railroads. But the Rails-to-Trails program passed by Congress in 1983 has turned into a major legal liability for taxpayers.

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Originally appeared in print as Trails of Tears

What's being said

  • Fighting Bob

    The headline should not read "Rail-to-Trails Program Costly to Taxpayers" but rather "Rail-to-Trails Program WAS Cost-EFFECTIVE FOR Taxpayers UNTIL GREED HIJACKED THE ORIGINAL INTENT"

    I doubt "R-T rider" below gets on their bike very often, nor lives near a train because if they did, they would find that land owners should generally prefer some light access by individuals vs and industrial operation that may run any time day or night (not to mention possibility of derailment with contains risk of spill, etc).

    Once again a few individuals realize that the government can be used for their own private piggy bank to the detriment of others and yet we all pay. Many of these trails can and have been used to reestablish wildlife and put back what having tracks originally took away. And in exchange certain landowners might *gasp* have to realize that they don't live on an island. Most if not all realized what living near tracks meant to begin with which isn't exactly a property value booster.

    And now this sets a lovey precedent where everyone who might have a court case like this can have their hand out. The next time you want to read about welfare queens, remember that any old stereotypes are costing pennies on the $1 (or $100) compared to those in the big business of milking the government via tea party idolatry.

  • R-T rider

    Congress can do a lot, but they can make quite a mess, too. The landholders are forced to grant an easement to the railroads (a private entity) by the government. The railroad goes broke or ceases to use the easement. By law, that property still belongs to the original landholder. End of story.
    On a personal note - this sucks. I love many of these trails. But if I owned the land, I would be irritated to have it bisected in perpetuity and have strangers roaming across it at will.

  • Selfish conservatives

    Oh great. The judges went to Montana to get brainwahsed by the Koch brothers, and now hikers and bikers lose, and selfish money grubbing landowners who bought property with an easement alreacy there get to take the taxpayer for a ride, all the while protesting the payment of any taxes at the ballot box. HYPOCRITES.

  • Tom

    What was the government thinking? Maintaining a potentially critical right of way, while allowing the public to capture some of the benefits of the currently unused path.

    It's a shame that people are going for the money grab. In the end, the government will stop funding many of these rails to trails conservancies, but that won't stop locals from enjoying the right of way illicitly. Which of course will start a whole new round of suits, and then "capital improvement" in the shape of no trespassing signs, road blocks etc, none of which will accomplish anything.

  • Lawyers f##2k us again

    F##@king lawyers

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