City seeks to block purchase of abandoned rail line for power line

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AURORA, Ohio – The city of Aurora is hoping to purchase a soon to be abandoned rail line before Ohio Edison Power can acquire it to build new transmission lines. Late last year, Norfolk Southern filed an application with the Surface Transportation Board to abandon 5.5 miles line that passes through Aurora, which the city wants to use as a trail. NS has been in discussions with Ohio Edison/First Energy about purchasing the line.

“We feel that abandonment is imminent, and since the city’s master plan favors using that route for a future hike and bike trail, I feel it is important for us to seek control over it,” Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin tells the Kent Record Courier. “We have learned that First Energy is negotiating with Norfolk Southern to obtain the railroad line so it can place new transmission lines there. The city is opposed to that happening, and has notified First Energy of that.”

First Energy spokesman Doug Colafella says that the company is talking with NS to obtain the line for a 69-kilovolt line through Aurora. “This is still in the planning stages, but we feel the railroad bed would have the least impact on the community to enhance service,” he says. “Customers in the Aurora area have suffered several power outages in recent months, and this line would help eliminate them.”

Colafella says the firm is willing to work with the city to try to bring about both the electrical improvements and a trail along the railroad bed. “We’ve done that with many park districts,” he says, adding First Energy will schedule a meeting later this year to explain plans to residents. City officials made an offer to NS to acquire the ex-Erie Railroad line, but NS did not respond by a city-established May 25 deadline. As of June 1, NS had not responded.

The Portage County Park District would use the line to extend the Headwaters Trail, which runs between just west of Mantua Village and Garrettsville.
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