Oregon Coast legal victory a win for restoration of tracks

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Oregon Coast Scenic along the Salmonberry Canyon.
Martin E. Hansen
SALEM, Ore. – In a case that captured the attention of Surface Transportation Board lawyers nationwide, the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad won a pre-emption lawsuit against the state of Oregon and is set to resume work on the former Southern Pacific Tillamook Branch in the remote Salmonberry Canyon in northwest Oregon.

Last week, a state judge ruled that the state had no right to stop the railroad from rebuilding track near Enright. The tourist railroad, which began in 2003 on a coastal portion of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad, had in 2011 started rebuilding a 25-mile portion of the mountainous section of the railroad that had been heavily damaged in winter 2007 storms. After completing restoration on 20 miles of track and in the midst of work in a heavily damaged section, the railroad received an order from the state in spring 2014 telling the company to stop work and seek permits to move fill dirt. At the time work was halted, the railroad was within a mile and a half of its goal of reaching Enright, where a runaround track and a water tank are located.

The judge in the ruling said that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 gives exclusive jurisdiction to the Surface Transportation Board over all repair and restoration of railroads and that the State Of Oregon has no right to impose any state environmental or other state regulations on the railroad. The law has been upheld before, most notably in 1995 when Burlington Northern reopened the Stampede Pass line in Washington State.

“The United States Constitution gives Congress the right to preempt certain state laws in order to accomplish interstate commerce. Only the Federal government may regulate the construction and repair of railroads in the U.S.,” Oregon Coast Scenic attorney Martin E. Hansen tells Trains News Wire. “It was David and Goliath all over again, and this time David won.”

The state may try and appeal the State judge’s ruling, which will affect when construction will resume.

Oregon Coast Scenic operates a two-truck Heisler, No. 2, and former McCloud River Railway 2-6-2 No. 25.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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