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St. Pete sues CSX over railroad right-of-way

Margie Manning

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A biker makes her way on the Pinellas Trail in St. Petersburg. (Photo credit: Visit Florida)

The City of St. Petersburg has gone to court against CSX Transportation Inc., challenging the company’s decision to sell part of the railroad right-of-way downtown.

The city wants to convert the property to become part of the Pinellas Trail, but learned in late May that CSX had a deal to sell the land to someone else.

The segment is adjacent to and concurrent with city-owned property, according to the lawsuit filed June 26 in U.S. District Court in Tampa. The city is asking a federal judge for a declaratory judgment stating that it has the right to the land CSX plans to sell.

CSX Corp. (Nasdaq: CSX), based in Jacksonville, does not comment on matters of pending litigation, a spokeswoman said.

The city bought part of the CSX rail line, from 34th Street South through the Tropicana Field site to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, in 2006, and operates it as a segment of the Pinellas Trail.

For four years, the city also has continuously maintained and repaired portions of the rail segment that CSX now plans to sell, according to the lawsuit.

The parcel runs from just south of 5th Avenue North under the overpass for I-375 to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street South, at 1st Avenue South, according to a map from the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s office. The complaint and an accompanying exhibit were less precise.

A map from the Pinellas County Property Appraiser shows the parcel at issue.

In May the city emailed CSX about converting the railroad segment to trail use. The city got an email back on May 30 from CSX, saying the company had entered into a purchase and sale agreement with an undisclosed entity to transfer rights to the railroad segment.

“The City has certain rights to the Railroad Segment under state and federal law by virtue of being a municipality, an abutting landowner, a purchaser, and having other concurrent rights to the Railroad Segment…” the lawsuit said.

In the five-count complaint, the city cites federal law regarding disposition of railroad land and lack of permission from the Surface Transportation Board for CSX to sell the land, among other factors.

A hearing date has not been set.

NOTE: This story has been updated to include the more precise details of the property.

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