The BNSF Railway Co. is asking the federal government for permission to abandon 6.23 miles of rail line stretching from downtown Coeur d’Alene to Post Falls.
The railroad company is applying to expedite the process and must show that no rail traffic has moved on the line for two years and that there are no outstanding complaints about the lack of service on the line, said Gene Fadness, a spokesman for the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, which will conduct a hearing on the matter Tuesday.
BNSF stated in its petition that no shippers remain on the line, as the last remaining customer, Stimson Lumber, closed its operations adjacent to the line last year. In addition, Stimson supports the abandonment, the petition says.
BNSF said it has received a firm offer for the slightly less than four miles of rail line closest to Coeur d’Alene. Parties planning the education corridor in downtown Coeur d’Alene, including the city, North Idaho College and the urban renewal agency, the Lake City Development Corp., plan to use part of the rail line to support those efforts.
“The property is urgently needed for the ongoing development of the … educational corridor,” BNSF said in its petition.
Discussions also are under way to use part of the rail line farther to the north as a trail system, said City Attorney Mike Gridley. “By spring of next year, I fully anticipate the abandonment will be approved and the tracks will be coming up,” he said.
BNSF said in the petition to the federal Surface Transportation Board that it would use the remaining two-plus miles of track, between Huetter and Ross Point roads in Post Falls, to store rail cars.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission must determine whether the abandonment would impair access for shippers to goods or markets or whether the rail line has the potential for profitability.
“We’ve not had any (abandonment requests) where someone said the rail line has to stay open (because) it’s being used,” Fadness said. “It’s a fairly routine process.”
However, an objection to the abandonment has been filed by Pan-American Railway Inc., doing business as Post Falls-Coeur d’Alene Railroad. It states that Pan-American was formed for the purpose of conducting rail service, but “is not yet a rail carrier.” It also states Pan-American would like to create a port authority and a renewable energy industrial park on the land.