Amtrak suing SEPTA in rent dispute

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PHILADELPHIA — Amtrak is suing the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in federal court, as it seeks a dramatic increase in rent in a dispute over land SEPTA leases along the Northeast Corridor.

Since 1987, SEPTA has paid $1 a year for land along the corridor it uses for stations and parking lots; the transit agency maintains the sites and estimates it has spent $228 million on capital improvements over the last 15 years, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

But SEPTA’s 30-year lease on the land has expired and the two sides have been unable reach a new agreement. Amtrak now wants to charge the full market rate for the land, which would be $1.5 million a year plus an annual 2% increase. In its lawsuit, Amtrak is asking that the court making it clear the land belongs to Amtrak and that SEPTA is not free to use it without a lease agreement; the passenger railroad says it could evict SEPTA and develop or sell the land. SEPTA says Amtrak doesn’t have that right, citing federal laws and an operation plan predating Amtrak’s ownership of the land, which it acquired from Conrail in 1982.

The suit, and potential rent increase, does not affect SEPTA’s actual rail operations on the Northeast Corridor; it pays Amtrak an annual operating fee of $50.

SEPTA filed a motion this month asking U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden to dismiss the case. No court date has been set for arguments on that motion.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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