Alaska Railroad sues Anchorage neighborhood over right of way dispute

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 3:46 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A decades-long dispute over legal rights to the Alaska Railroad’s right-of-way is headed to court.

Last month, the Alaska Railroad Corporation filed a lawsuit against the Flying Crown Homeowner’s Association in the U.S. District Court.

The crux of the dispute is the extent of the rights that the Alaska Railroad Corporation was granted when the railroad was transferred from the federal government to the State of Alaska.

“In the last few decades the Alaska Railroad has set out to maximize its property interest at the expense of private property owners, so that they can monetize so that they can keep operating the railroad,” said John Pletcher.

Pletcher is not a party in the lawsuit but has been invested in the issue for 18 years as a property owner whose property the Alaska Railroad passes through.

Pletcher says by accumulating exclusive rights to rights of ways, the railroad will be able to increase the rates it charges utilities to use or cross the right of way.

“The more the railroad can demonstrate it owns in the easement interest, the more value it has and the higher the rates that it can charge utility companies, which then is passed on to the consumer,” Pletcher said.

While the lawsuit is directed at the Flying Crown neighborhood, Pletcher says it has implications for both municipalities and residents across the rail belt.

“That action is important in resolving the legal dispute between what amounts to many of us and the railroad,” Pletcher said. “It’s a kind of a Samson and Goliath battle in which the railroad, which enjoys continuing federal and state funding is up against a few property owners, when in fact every Alaskan on the rail belt ought to jump up and help.”

A spokesperson for the Alaska Railroad Corporation said no one was available for an interview because of the holiday, but said, “We have been working for many years to resolve questions raised by some neighboring landowners about legal title to the Alaska Railroad right-of-way. When people continue to disagree in good faith on aspects of the law, it is important to find resolution, which we hope can be provided by the courts.”

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