United States Court of Federal Claims
45 Fed.Cl. 771 (2000)
The Glosemeyers (plaintiffs) own parcels of land over which the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad Company (MKT) had an easement to operate its railroad line. Under Missouri law, once an easement is abandoned, the right to the property reverts back to the owner of the underlying land. However, where the easement concerns a railroad right-of-way, the Rails to Trails Act (Act) supersedes state laws governing abandonment. Under the Act, the railroad company must seek permission from the federal government to abandon the track. If the application is approved, a qualified trail provider may apply to use the abandoned right-of-way as a recreational trail, provided that the Government (defendant) is allowed to reopen rail service on the right-of-way if later deemed appropriate. The right-of-way is then placed in a national “rail bank,” in case it is later needed for rail service. This preservation of abandoned railroad easements for possible future railroad use is known as railbanking. In 1986, pursuant to the Act, MKT filed an application to abandon its rail service. The application was granted and MKT entered an agreement with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), under which MKT transferred its interest in the right-of-way to MDNR for $200,000 and removed the entire track. MDNR now operates a recreational trail over the former line. The Glosemeyers brought suit, arguing that, but for the Act, ownership of the easement area would have reverted back to them upon abandonment by MKT. The Glosemeyers claimed that operation of the Act constituted a taking of a new easement on their property. Both parties moved for summary judgment as to liability.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Bruggink, J.)
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