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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Appeals court rules in favor of New York Regional Rail in adverse abandonment case


Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of New York Regional Rail (NYRR) in an abandonment case with between NYRR subsidiary New York Cross Harbor Railroad Terminal Corp. (NYCH), and the Surface Transportation Board and New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC).

The court ruled that STB’s decision to adverse abandon NYCH from Brooklyn’s Bush Terminal Yard was "arbitrary and capricious," and vacated the board’s decision and granted NYCH’s petition for review. The railroad can continue to operate at Bush Terminal Yard and the matter will be "remanded to the board for further consideration."

"There is a need for redundancy and flexibility in the New York/New Jersey port region and its ‘center city,’ which is highly vulnerable to disruption of goods movement," said NYRR Executive Vice President Donald Hutton in a prepared statement. "If an unfortunate event occurred, it could be critical to have the Cross Harbor Railroad assist in movement of emergency supplies, military equipment and personnel across the river and harbor."

Acting on behalf of New York City, the Economic Development Corp. in November 2001 filed an adverse abandonment petition with the STB seeking to remove NYCH from the yard.

In May 2003, STB granted NYCEDC’s request and in June 2003, NYCH petitioned STB for a stay of the abandonment pending judicial review. The board granted stay in August 2003 and in September, NYCH filed an appeal.

In yesterday’s decision, the court stated, "The board failed to distinguish its adverse abandonment precedent and to properly balance all of the competing interests involved in the abandonment application. In each respect, it acted arbitrarily and capriciously in granting NYCEDC’s abandonment application. Accordingly, we granted Cross Harbor’s petition for review and remand the matter to the board."

NYCH is the only freight rail carrier that provides rail transportation by barge across the New York Harbor.

NYCEDC recently completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a Cross Harbor Freight Movement Project in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Railroad Administration. The study provided environmental analyses for several cross harbor freight-rail alternatives, including making improvements to the NYCH rail car float system.

Another recent study — "Investing in Mobility: Freight Transport in the Hudson Region" conducted by the Environmental Defense and East of Hudson Rail Freight Operations Task Force — concluded that, "an important part of upgrading the regional freight rail system is improving the cross-harbor float operations currently run by the New York Cross-Harbor Railroad."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/14/2004