The CSX Railroad notified the federal government that it plans to abandon nearly 62 miles of its railroad easement.
In fact, it had already started negotiations to transfer the line for public recreational use. New Albany, Washington County, and Salem officials as well as The Indiana Trails Fund believe that the trail will be an asset for the community and have expressed interest in saving the line for a public trail.
According to lawyers representing a growing list of more than 125 property owners, this could be a taking of private property by the United States which would be responsible for paying money damages to any property owner abutting the railroad easement.
“The land belongs to the abutting property owners and would be theirs when the railroad leaves. If the public is going to use private land for a public purpose, the public ought to share in the cost and not rely on these property owners to allow the public on their land without any compensation,” said Bob Sears, of Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC.
Mr. Sears and Lewis Maudlin, a prominent Salem real estate attorney, are working together to bring these claims in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington DC.
“If property owners want to make a claim, they can do so at no risk, but they must sign up to make a claim or they will not be paid.” said Maudlin, “Any property owner in any of the five counties where this railroad is located can stop by my office on the square at 54 Public Sq., Salem, Indiana.
They just need to be the owner of land abutting the CSX railroad.”
The lawsuit is for compensation, it will have no effect on the communities’ plans for the trail and no local entity will be responsible for paying the claims”