Isn't it about time to protect our NC railroad safety easements?

Published June 11, 2020

By Joe Mavretic

House Bill 1168 was a bad idea. The House Committee Substitute for HB 1168 is a bad idea state-wide bill.
This bill, which sits in our Senate, reduces the safety/maintenance easement on our Murphy Branch rail corridor between Milepost 101.1 and 113.7.
The original bill carried a one hundred thousand dollar appropriation. The committee substitute reduced the appropriation to a thousand dollars to make it palatable. So, what’s bad about this idea?
If it passes as is, or gets buried in the Appropriations Bill, our state will never have a Morehead to Murphy Railroad because no operator will put a train on a track with a safety/maintenance easement this narrow. And that’s not all!
This bill will set a precedent for anyone who has violated the safety/maintenance easement along any portion of our North Carolina Railroad. And that’s not all!
This precedent could spill over to the edge of every state property that has been encroached. So, what to do?
Turn this bad idea into a good move. Convert this Committee Substitute into a commission that determines how many miles of our North Carolina Railroad Corridor have been invaded by adjacent property owners. The Rail Division of our Department of Transportation needs to know this. Our Five Year State Rail Plan needs to know this. Why is this important?
Our Rail Plan wants to put seventy percent (70%) of our population within thirty (30) miles of a passenger station as soon as possible. If we set a precedent of reducing the safety/maintenance easement, Murphy will never again see a railroad and neither will a lot of towns off the main line. 
Isn’t it about time to protect our North Carolina Railroad and take a longer view?