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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

STB sorts out Coos Bay Line dispute, schedules field hearing to review Yucca Mountain line


Last week, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) ordered the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad Inc. (CORP) to sell a 111-mile portion of the Coos Bay Line between Danebo and Cordes, Ore., to the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay. The board also granted CORP authority to abandon a 94-mile segment of the line, effective Nov. 30, if a sale of that segment isn’t completed.

The STB ruled that the line meets five "public convenience and necessity" criteria for a forced sale under a "feeder line" provision of a statute, which enables shippers and communities to acquire lines deemed to have inadequate service. The board also determined the port is eligible to purchase the line.

CORP must sell the line to the port at a price to be determined by the STB after it reviews further filings regarding the line’s steel value. After the board sets a price, the port must decide whether to accept the sale terms. The port or its chosen line operator will be required to offer employment to qualified CORP employees who previously worked on the line.

In September 2007, CORP closed the Coos Bay Line because the short line determined three tunnels posed a safety risk to operations and were too costly to repair, and the line's traffic had declined significantly. The state then fought CORP’s and parent RailAmerica Inc.'s plan to close the line permanently and encouraged the STB to accept the port’s proposal to purchase a portion of the Coos Bay.

Meanwhile, the STB scheduled a public field hearing on Dec. 4 in Las Vegas to review the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) application to build the “Caliente Line.”

The DOE plans to construct a 300-mile line from a Union Pacific Railroad line near Caliente, Nev., to a proposed geologic repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev. The agency first would use the line to transport materials needed to construct the repository, then move spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to disposal sites after the repository is completed.

Member of the public who wish to speak at the hearing must file a notice with the STB by Nov. 14.