Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Case No. UPR-R-10-01, Order No. 32135
December 20, 2010
Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712
Commission won’t oppose Nampa rail abandonment
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will not intervene in a petition by Union Pacific Railroad to the federal Surface Transportation Board for authority to abandon a near mile stretch of railway in downtown Nampa.
The section proposed for abandonment begins near the intersection of 16th Avenue South and Front Street in Nampa and extends nearly a mile to the south near East Florida Avenue.
The authority to grant or deny rail abandonment rests with the federal Surface Transportation Board and is governed by federal law. However, the IPUC is required to conduct a public hearing before the abandonment is considered at the federal level. The commission did so last October at the Nampa City Hall.
At that hearing, city leaders and those affiliated with the Nampa Bicycle and Pedestrian Citizens Advisory Group said they wanted to use the line as a pedestrian and bicycle pathway that is critical to linking residential neighborhoods to downtown.
But shippers who formerly used the line, testified against the proposed abandonment. TVM Recycling and Seminis Vegetable Seeds are located along the line, but have had to transload their products to Caldwell and Kuna because UP failed to maintain the line. Staff from the commission testified that UP paved over a crossing and started taking some rails out.
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, however, will not pursue the matter before the federal agency, stating that the cost of repairing the line and making it suitable for rail service is no longer viable. “Union Pacific’s failure to maintain the line and ensure rail service to the shippers demonstrates its lack of commitment to its smaller customers,” the commission said. “UP could have acted in a more collaborative manner with the shippers and possibly averted the need to abandon the line.”
Under the exemption procedure pursued by Union Pacific, the Surface Transportation Board will publish a notice in the Federal Register within 20 days after the petition for exemption is filed. Thirty days after the notice is published, the railroad is permitted to abandon the rail line unless the STB stays the abandonment.
A copy of the commission’s order and other documents related to the case are available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on the rail icon, then on “Open Rail Cases,” and select Case No. UPR-R-10-01.