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Empire State Trail Case Details



On February 8, 2024, at long last, the United States Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) has authorized the former Metro-North railroad corridor in Dutchess & Putnam Counties, New York to be converted to a recreational trail.

Click on the image below to download the Notice of Interim Trail Use.

Click to download and view The United States Transportation Notice of Interim Trail Use Decision filed on February 8, 2024.

On April 30, 2021, Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company (“Metro North”) filed an Application for Discontinuance with the United States Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) to discontinue service over 41.1 miles of railroad line in Dutchess and Putnam Counties, NY.   The discontinuance begins in Beacon, NY, passes through Hopewell Junction and Brewster, NY and ends at the New York / Connecticut state line.  In that filing, Metro North indicated that it is seeking discontinuance authorization in order to render the portion of line from Beacon to the New York / Connecticut state line eligible for conversion into a recreational trail pursuant to the United States Trails Act. 

Our office has now filed multiple lawsuits for approximately 200 landowners in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims seeking compensation for a taking of their land by way of a blocking of their reversionary interests in the railroad corridor.



What is the United States Trails Act?

The Trails Act is a federal program that permits the conversion of railroad lines into nature and hiking trails. In this instance, the trail would comprise a segment of New York’s Empire State Trail. 

If the STB permits a trail conversion, which we expect to occur in the near term, then this would potentially result in the triggering of a claim for money damages in your favor against the United States government. The claim results from the blocking of reversionary property rights in the railroad corridor. This taking would require the United States to pay you just compensation under the Constitution.  It is important to note that your claim would only be against the federal government and is NOT adverse to the Empire State Trail or an local entity sponsoring the trail.

The claim is based on New York property law.  An owner of land that abuts a public right of way (in this case a former railroad corridor) is presumed to own a portion of the land within the right of way, such that when the railroad was ever abandoned the land would revert to their ownership.  This is what should have occurred with respect to the land now comprising the trail.  However, as a result of the government’s authorization to convert the railroad to a recreational trail, this reversion was blocked and resulted in a taking of property.






Rails to Trails Resources Presented to you by Stewart, Wald & Smith

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