Rail authority issue far from settled, say North Shore officials

Officials for North Shore Railroad claim a decision over who will ultimately become the operator of SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority’s five shortline freight routes is far from being settled.

A three-member Commonwealth Court appellate panel last week overturned an earlier decision upholding the JRA board’s contention that it did not have sufficient votes to award an operating agreement to Carload Express.

That decision gave Carload a legal right to be awarded the operating agreement.

The JRA board had voted 7-3 in July 2015 to award the operating contract to Carload Express over North Shore Railroad.

However, the JRA later issued a written Request for Proposals that a nine-out-10 majority vote would be needed to award the contract. Six of the board members did not vote.

Clinton County Court upheld JRA’s contention, ruling last year that no less than nine affirmative votes were needed.

While the recent appellate court decision seemed to settle the issue, North Shore Railroad officials refer to a counterclaim it made in Clinton County Court back in 2015.

“North Shore Railroad’s counterclaim is that the 7-3 vote should never have taken place,” said Loni Briner, North Shore Railroad spokesman. “We say a board member should not have been involved in the request for proposals process.”

Briner said the North Shore Railroad officials are eager to pursue the counterclaim and put an end to the litigation in order to expand the company, serve customer’s needs, and drive economic growth in the region.