Commission plans hearing on rail abandonment
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will conduct a hearing on June 14 regarding BNSF Railway Company’s intent to gain federal Surface Transportation Board approval to abandon 2.12 miles of railroad right-of-way in Coeur d’Alene. The rail line once served the Potlatch Mill location that is now The Coeur d’Alene Resort.
BNSF indicates it will file a petition with the Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Board on or about June 13 to exempt the railroad from a longer abandonment process and receive authorization in as few as 30 days. To be eligible for the exemption, the railroad must certify that no rail traffic has moved on the line for the past two years and there are no outstanding complaints about the lack of rail service.
The Idaho PUC does not make rail abandonment decisions. The commission’s role is to determine if the abandonment 1) adversely affects the area being served, 2) impairs the access of Idaho shippers to vital goods and markets, and 3) whether the rail line has the potential for profitability. If the commission determines the proposed abandonment is not in the public interest, it files comments and represents the state before the Surface Transportation Board.
The commission issued a notice inviting parties to intervene or make written comment. There were no parties requesting intervention and only two written comments received. Because of little or no opposition to the application, the commission will conduct the hearing at its Boise headquarters, but provide a free telephone link to allow persons to testify or listen in. Those interested can dial the toll-free number, 1-888-830-6260, and enter Participant Code 779963. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time, 9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The purpose of the hearing is to take public testimony as to whether the abandonment of the 2.12 miles of rail right-of-way is adverse to Idaho’s public interest.
The section of right-of-way proposed for abandonment generally runs from Coeur d’Alene City Park adjacent to Northwest Boulevard, across the front of The Coeur d’Alene Resort, down East Front Avenue, following East Mullan Avenue and terminating at the resort. The majority of the track was removed in the 1980s. Consequently, there are no shippers on the line.
A full text of the application, along with other documents related to this case, are available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room” and then on “Rail Cases” and scroll down to Case Number BNR-R-06-01.