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4/11/2017 6:46:00 PM
Rail eminent domain changes win Indiana legislative approval

Dan Carden, Times of Northwest Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to approve changing the state's eminent domain statute to limit why and how railroads can forcibly purchase private property for new or expanded rail service. 

The Indiana House voted 96-0 Monday to accept Senate revisions to House Enrolled Act 1260, advancing the proposal to the Republican governor. It passed the Senate, 49-0, on March 27.

The legislation obligates railroads to abide by the same "public use" mandate and property-appraisal process employed by the federal government when forcing the sale of a home, farm or other land.

Current state law gives railroads of just about any size almost unlimited use of eminent domain, including potentially taking land in state parks to build rail lines.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, the sponsor, said changing to the federal appraisal standard is needed, in part, to secure federal matching funds for double-tracking the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City.

Other lawmakers have said the new eminent domain requirements also may deter Great Lakes Basin Transportation from attempting to take a 200-foot wide corridor for its proposed 260-mile freight railroad connecting Northwest Indiana to southeast Wisconsin.

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