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Rail Trails under fire in U.S. Senate, time to write your Senator

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Old July 4th 03, 04:53 PM
Brent Hugh
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Default Rail Trails under fire in U.S. Senate, time to write your Senator

(Brent Hugh) wrote in message . com...
I received the following message today, asking Missouri cyclists to
call or write Senator Bond and ask him to withdraw his amendment to
Section 1617 that would effectively stop rails-to-trails and

You can find contact information for U.S. Senators he


Below is a summary of the issue from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
that has a little better handle on the details. You can find this, a
list of suggested messages to send to Congress, the actual text of the
Section, and other related info at


Please note that this may affect already completed trails as
well--under the proposed Section 1617, if a state accepts federal
money for trail maintenance or improvement, then it also must accept
the liability for any property rights suits.


Background Information
Railbanking, Rail-Trails and Section 1716 of SAFETEA
Provided by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, July 1, 2003

There are nearly 12,500 miles of open rail-trail in the United States.
Another 16,760 miles are in development, with communities in every
state awaiting their construction. The enormous popularity of trails
is fueled by their ability to generate civic pride and economic
prosperity by catalyzing small business growth, promoting tourism and
increasing property values. Rail-trails enhance livability by
improving air and water quality, and preserving natural, cultural and
historical resources. They also create healthy people and communities
by making it easy and fun to get outside for exercise, transportation
and recreation.

The driving policy force behind this huge movement is two pieces of
federal legislation: 1) the 1983 railbanking provisions of the
National Trails Systems Act allowing unused railroad corridors to be
preserved for possible rail reactivation if managed on an interim
basis as trails and 2) the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program
included in federal transportation legislation since 1991 which has
provided more than $530 million for rail-trail acquisition and
development. Specifically, 4,334 miles of rail corridor have been
railbanked; 1,611 miles of railbanked corridor are open to the public
(85 trails); and over $115 million in Transportation Enhancements
dollars have been devoted to railbanked rail-trails.

On Sept. 30, 2003, current federal surface transportation
legislation, TEA-21 expires. It is currently undergoing congressional
renewal or "reauthorization."

The Bush Administration's proposed transportation bill, introduced in
both the House and the Senate as part of the Safe and Flexible
Transportation Equity Act, "SAFETEA," includes a provision, Section
1617, captioned indemnification on Certain Railbanked Projects. This
provision was included in the transportation bill at the request of
the U. S. Department of Justice. Its purpose is to stop states from
using TE or any other federal dollars for railbanked trails. It does
so by requiring them to reimburse the federal government for any such
investment, plus attorneys' fees, if such a corridor is the subject of
a winning takings claim. Its affect would be to stop railbanking in
its tracks.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy strongly opposes Section 1617 of SAFETEA.
This provision would render railbanking useless as a tool for corridor
preservation and interim trail use.


Brent Hugh
bhugh [at] mwsc.edu

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