Aurora, First Energy Vie to Buy Ex-Erie Track

The right of way of a former Erie Railroad line in Northeast Ohio is being sought for use as a hike and bike tail or the route of an electric transmission line.

The City of Aurora wants to buy a portion of the largely abandoned Cleveland-Youngstown line, which is owned by Norfolk Southern, to make it into a trail.

But NS is also talking with First Energy Corporation about buying the property.

NS is seeking approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to abandon 5.5 miles of the route, including a segment that passes through Aurora.

The line has been inactive since 1980 although the rails remain in place between Solon and Chamberlain Road in Mantua Township.

The rails were kept there because at one time there were discussions about launching a commuter rail service to downtown Cleveland.

First Energy spokesman Doug Colafella told the Record-Courier newspaper that the utility is planning a 69-kilovolt line through Aurora.

“Customers in the Aurora area have suffered several power outages in recent months, and this line would help eliminate them,” he said.

The master plan for Aurora, though, calls for the ex-Erie to be transformed into a recreation trail.

Aurora Mayor Ann Wormer Benjamin said the city is opposed to First Energy placing the transmission line on the former railroad right of way.

“We feel that abandonment is imminent, and since the city’s master plan favors using that route for a future hike and bike trail, I feel it is important for us to seek control over it,” she said.

Colafella doesn’t see the future of the right of way as an either-or proposition.

The utility company is willing to allow a trail to be developed on the property. “We’ve done that with many park districts,” he said.

Although Aurora has made a purchase offer to NS, it has yet to respond.

A portion of the former Erie line is already used for the Headwaters Trail between Mantua and Garrettsville.

That trail is maintained by the The Portage County Park District, which also maintains a trail on former Erie right of way that is adjacent to still active rails between Kent and Ravenna that are used by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway.

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