STB Favors Michigan Short-line Over CSX in Dispute About Trackage Rights in Grand Rapids

A Michigan short-line railroad has received approval from the Surface Transportation Board to operate on three miles of CSX track in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

STBThe STB granted a request by the Grand Elk Railroad to use the track, but left it up to a Michigan court to determine the railroad’s contractual rights before it can resume serving customers.

The decision was a rejection of a CSX bid to prohibit the Grand Elk from using the trackage rights originally granted to Norfolk Southern but which were omitted from the Grand Elk’s lease agreement with NS to operate a former Pennsylvania Railroad route from Grand Rapids to Elkhart, Indiana.

Grand Elk has been using the CSX line until it was abruptly banned last August.

Grand Elk, a Watco company, said the trackage rights over the CSX line in question were inadvertently left out of its lease agreement with NS.

“The STB gave us the green light. The decision was promising as far as it goes, but it did not rule on the assignment of rights,” said Robert A. Wimbish, Grand Elk’s attorney.

A judge in Kent County, Michigan, will determine if as a matter of state law, the assignment of trackage rights on the Grand Rapids Track from NS to Grand Elk is valid and enforceable.


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