Hendersonville Lightning: Railroad files notice that it plans to abandon line for Ecusta Trail

From the Hendersonville Lightning:

Blue Ridge Southern Railroad plans to file a notice with federal authorities that will lead to the abandonment of the 19.1-mile stretch of tracks that would become the Ecusta Trail, according to a legal notice. . .

Official abandonment of the tracks is a crucial step that must be approved by the Surface Transportation Board before the line can be “railbanked” for a use other than trains.

The legal notice said the Office of Environmental Analysis of the Surface Transportation Board “will generally prepare an Environmental Assessment, which will become available 25 days after the filing of the notice of exemption. Comments on environmental and energy matters should be filed no later than 15 days after the EA becomes available to the public and will be addressed in a Board decision. . .

Conserving Carolina and Blue Ridge Southern Railroad reached an agreement on Oct. 27 for the purchase of the 19-mile segment of tracks for the bicycle and pedestrian greenway. In August 2019 the North Carolina Board of Transportation awarded a $6.4 million grant toward the purchase of the rail corridor and a year later the French Broad MPO awarded $5 million to fund construction of the first 5¾ miles of the greenway. The Henderson County Tourism Development Authority has earmarked $500,000 from the county lodging tax to support the trail and the Transylvania County Tourism Board of Directors voted in March to pitch in $100,000 for the project. The Henderson County Board of Commissioners provided the last financial contribution when it agreed to a $7 million bridge loan to close the purchase. Conserving Carolina officials said they expected to repay the $7 million before the county’s fiscal year ends on June 30. . .

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