NOTE: Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I’ve restored one of my early blog posts, dated September 23, 2008. I will keep it in front for a day or two. After that, click September 2008 at right to find it.
Three months after Union Pacific’s petition to abandon a nearly 25-mile branchline between Peoria and Middle Grove, the Journal Star reports it. And when you read their on-line article, you get the sense that staff has learned nothing from the earlier rail vs. trail debate involving the Kellar Branch, i. e. bias and misinformation.
Union Pacific filed for formal abandonment of this line in July. Subsequently, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources filed for “interim trail use” and then two railroads, Keokuk Junction Railway and V & S Railway, each gave a notice of intent to file an Offer of Financial Assistance (or “OFA” – a technical term for offering to purchase and operate the line).
The bias begins with the title, Railway line considered for new trail, then magnifies it with this:
Two other railroads also indicated interest in the property. V & S Railway Inc. has since backed out, but Keokuk Junction Railway Co. has not.
V & S Railway is affiliated with a track salvaging firm called A & K Railroad Materials. Interestingly, it also gave notices of intent to file OFA’s for two Kansas branchlines also sought for abandonment by UP. One can only speculate about their reasons for withdrawing their petition regarding the Peoria – Middle Grove line, but it is likely due to: (1) realizing that the line had no active customers, and (2), that the Keokuk Junction Railway, with which they did battle in the past, is involved.
What the JS writer doesn’t realize is that the Keokuk Junction Railway won’t “back down” because they are serious about acquiring the track in question.
The article also contains misinformation when it states:
The STB will consider the competing priorities for the land on Oct. 2.
Compare this to the Board’s August 21 Decision:
The requests for issuance of a notice of interim trail use and a public use condition are held in abeyance pending completion of the OFA process.
The Keokuk Junction Railway’s formal OFA has yet to be posted; the process hasn’t even started.
Facts and logic 1, Journal Star 0.
Unfortunately for trail proponents, some of the issues in this case are different than those involving the Kellar Branch. First, a railroad, not a municipality, owns the track in question. Thus, no government entity has a serious shot at influencing the outcome by filing for adverse abandonment. Second, the Keokuk Junction’s initial filing suggests Union Pacific is cooperating. That being the case, the line’s future will probably rest on the sale price and how much the shortline is willing to pay.
This old UP line could well end up being a recreational trail, but it’s important the news media gets the facts right and avoids bias when reporting on this process. One Journal Star writer proves she can do neither.
– David P. Jordan