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Proposal by NS, Pan Am Railways to co-own new railroad a minor transaction, STB says

Yesterday, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) ruled Norfolk Southern Railway's and Pan Am Railways' (PAR) application to jointly own a new railroad as part of their Patriot Corridor plan will be accepted as a minor transaction, meaning the application will require less scrutiny.

The STB also released a procedural schedule for the application. Comments on the applicants' environmental appendix — which describes why NS and PAR believe no formal environmental review is warranted — are due to the board's Section of Environmental Analysis by July 7; all comments, protests, requests for conditions, and any other evidence and argument in opposition to the application must be filed by Aug. 11; and responses to comments, protests, requests for conditions and other opposition, and rebuttals in support of the primary application must be filed by Sept. 5.

The STB expects to issue a final decision on Oct. 20 unless an extension is needed to permit the completion of a formal environmental review, the board said.

NS and PAR plan to establish the Patriot Corridor between Albany, N.Y., and the greater Boston area. Each would retain a half interest in Pan Am Southern, a newly formed railroad company.

PAR plans to transfer its 155-mile mainline between Mechanicville, N.Y., and Ayer, Mass., to the joint venture, along with 281 miles of secondary and branch lines (including trackage rights) in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. PAR's Springfield Terminal Railway subsidiary would provide all rail services for the joint venture.

NS would provide cash and property valued at $140 million, $87.5 million of which is expected to be spent the next three years to improve the Patriot Corridor, such as terminal expansions, and track and signal upgrades. NS and PAR also plan to build intermodal and automotive terminals in the Albany, N.Y., area.

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More News from 6/27/2008