Indiana Lawmakers Dream They Can Control Railroad Use of Eminent Domain

In Indiana, legislators are attempting to enact substantial restrictions on the right of railroads to condemn for public use.

This is “barking up the wrong tree.” The place to stop any kind of condemnation by a railroad is not at the state level, but rather, it’s the Surface Transportation Board in Washington. Possibly this can be done, but a request for release from the Transportation Board is unlikely to succeed.

“House Bill 1260, sponsored by state Reps. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, would obligate railroads to abide by the same “public use” mandate and property appraisal process employed by governments in forcing the sale of a home, farm or other land.
Soliday said existing Indiana law, originally written in the 19th century, gives railroads of just about any size almost unlimited use of eminent domain, including potentially taking land in state parks to build a rail line.

‘Under the current law you can just say, ‘I want to build a railroad; give me your land and I’ll pay you,” Soliday said. ‘(This) raises the bar that you do need to have a compelling public need for the eminent domain.’
Aylesworth indicated the legislation was inspired by the largely negative Region reaction to the plan by Great Lakes Basin Transportation to take a 200-foot wide corridor for its proposed 260-mile freight railroad connecting Northwest Indiana to southeast Wisconsin.”

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