Discussion on rails to trails will continue tonight

Becky Killian, Staff Writer

County and city officials are considering converting a recently abandoned rail line into a trail.
The matter was discussed during the Wednesday, Jan. 3, meeting of the Washington County Board of Commissioners.
On hand were representatives from the City of Salem – Councilman Justin Green and Drew Wright, special counsel for the city. Wright informed commissioners the city might want to convert five miles of rail in the city’s limits to a trail.
Late last year, CSX sent notifications about its plan to abandon about 62 miles of track, some of which runs through Washington County. It extends from New Albany almost to Bedford.
The abandoned property will revert to individual ownership unless officials request the land be rail banked for possible future use as a trail. The request must be made by Thursday, Jan. 18. Wright explained the rail line in Washington County has no recorded deed or easement.
Commission President Phillip Marshall asked who would maintain the trail. Wright said CSX would maintain a right for possible future rail use for the land – which would be unlikely to happen – but trail upkeep would be done by the local agencies that manage the trail.
Since county officials were notified of the rail abandonment, they have discussed concerns about rail bridges along that line that often catch debris during floods and form dams, which causes damage to private property. CSX had been responsible for clean up while the line was in use, but will no longer do so once the line is abandoned. Officials have also expressed concerns about upkeep of the bridges and repair of the roads where crossings will be removed.
After verifying that a vote to bank the abandoned land puts no financial obligation on the county or commitment to any project, commissioners voted to bank the land.

The topic will be discussed tonight at the Salem City Council meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. 

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