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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Idaho bill seeks to retain, support small roads


Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne March 29 received a bill from the state’s legislature designed to preserve Idaho’s Class II and III railroads.
Since 1975, the state has lost about one-third of its rail miles due to abandonment — especially in Idaho’s mountainous areas. And short lines have been hit hard by the state’s depressed agriculture and natural-resource industries.
House Bill No. 269 is designed to create a rail preservation program within the Idaho Transportation Department. If approved, Idaho’s DOT would develop a state rail plan to evaluate and preserve rail services.
The bill passed Idaho’s House March 7, and the Senate, March 23.
With the governor’s signature, a rail-service preservation fund would be established by Idaho’s treasury — subject to appropriation — that would be administered by the Idaho Transportation Board.
The bill also would require the Public Utilities Commission to continue intervening as necessary in Surface Transportation Board abandonment proceedings involving Idaho’s railroad branch and mainlines.Union Pacific Railroad and Burlington Northern Santa Fe support the bill, as do shippers from Idaho’s potato, sugar and forest-product industries.