National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Boston & Maine Corp., 503 U.S. 407 (1992)

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OCTOBER TERM, 1991

Syllabus

NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION et al. v. BOSTON & MAINE CORP. et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit

No. 90-1419. Argued January 13, 1992—Decided March 25, 1992*

The Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 (RPSA) created petitioner National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), a private corporation, to provide intercity and commuter rail passenger service. The Act permits Amtrak to enter into "trackage rights" agreements to use tracks owned and used by freight railroads, 45 U. S. C. 562(a), and allows Amtrak to ask petitioner Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to condemn railroad property "required for intercity rail passenger service" if Amtrak and the railroad cannot agree upon sale terms, 562(d). For purposes of the ICC's condemnation order, Amtrak's "need for the property" "shall be deemed to be established" unless the conveyance will significantly impair the railroad's ability to carry out its obligations as a common carrier and unless Amtrak's obligations can adequately be met by the acquisition of alternative property. Ibid. Amtrak had a "trackage rights" agreement with respondent Boston and Maine Corporation (B&M) to operate its "Montrealer" train between Washington, D. C., and Montreal. Amtrak claims it was forced to discontinue this service because of B&M's poor maintenance of its track segment. Subsequently, Amtrak entered into an agreement with petitioner Central Vermont Railroad (CV) which provided that, among other things, Amtrak would acquire the B&M track and reconvey it to CV, and CV would grant trackage rights to Amtrak and usage rights to B&M. When B&M did not accept Amtrak's purchase offer for the track, Amtrak sought, and received, an ICC order compelling conveyance for just compensation. The ICC found, among other things, that 562(d) created a statutory presumption of Amtrak's need for the track, which B&M failed to rebut. The Court of Appeals remanded the case for further proceedings, concluding that, because Amtrak did not intend to retain the track, it needed only its use, not its ownership. While petitions for rehearing were pending, 562(d) was amended to allow Amtrak to subsequently convey title to acquired property to a third party if the ICC finds the reconveyance furthers the RPSA's purposes. Nonetheless, the court

*Together with No. 90-1769, Interstate Commerce Commission et al. v. Boston & Maine Corp. et al., also on certiorari to the same court.

407

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