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Salt Lake sues to condemn U.P. land for trail

Access needed for 1700 S. bike path crossing

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Salt Lake City has headed to court to get some land from the Union Pacific Railroad for a bike path that crosses a rail line not far from 1700 South.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday is unrelated to the battle over the rail lines in the 900 South area on the west side, which the railroad is determined to reactivate and Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is determined to uproot.

This latest action involves about 2,275 square feet where the proposed Jordan River Bike Path intersects with a Union Pacific Railroad spur. The land is worth about $4,500, according to court documents.

"We have been in discussions with them for the better part of a year, seeking permission to cross that spur, and we have simply come to an impasse," said Chris Bramhall, Salt Lake City assistant city attorney. "We have decided to condemn an easement over that rail spur."

Union Pacific officials said they could not comment immediately.

"We haven't seen any complaints. Until we get a copy and see what it says, we'll probably wait until then to comment," said Dennis Farley, general attorney for the railroad.

The sticking point in the negotiations, according to Bramhall, was that Union Pacific had asked for indemnification for any damage that might happen to a bridge at that spot. "We simply didn't feel it was our responsibility to indemnify Union Pacific should any damage occur to that bridge," Bramhall said.

He said the matter will now proceed through the court system. "Typically, we would ask for an order of immediate occupancy and post an amount that everyone estimates for fair market value of the property. We would hopefully receive an order from the court to go ahead and occupy that property," he said.

"The details would get worked out later as far as appraised value and payment to Union Pacific," Bramhall said.

Bramhall said the timing of the condemnation of the land by Anderson on Labor Day and the filing of the lawsuit Tuesday, the first day the courts were open after the holiday weekend, was largely a coincidence.

Last Saturday the mayor held a rally in front of the Union Pacific headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City protesting the railroad's plans to reactivate a long-dormant line in the 900 South area.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com