Proponents of a trail-only approach to the rail corridor tell us that we can “save the tracks” for later use through something called railbanking. I’ve even heard a few people say, it’s been done hundreds of times, which is a half-truth.
It is half-true because thousands of miles of tracks have been removed and turned into trails. The misleading part is the implication that you can put the tracks back after you’ve replaced them with a trail. That has never happened. Not once.
Paul Schoelhamer, who spent years working on transportation policy as the Chief of Staff on the House committee on transportation, has the history and detail in an op ed in the Sentinel last weekend. Click here to read it.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that trails never get turned back into tracks. Imagine the public outcry that would greet any plan to remove trails. As Paul notes, “Once you tear up the tracks and build a trail on the railbed, you have made it nearly impossible to ever put the tracks back.”
The Land Trust’s position is clear and simple: we want to build the trail as fast as possible and we want to preserve the rail option. These two goals reinforce each other because the fastest way to build the trail is to build it as currently planned (and currently underway) – with the tracks in place and the rail option saved.
Two inconvenient facts remain for the trail-only proponents: Railbanking is a dead end for transportation options, and changing the already-approved RTC plan will reboot an approval process that will likely delay trail-building for almost a decade as the permit and grant applications begin anew.