This Comment will analyze the recent approach the Washington court has incorporated in settling trail development disputes across the State. In particular, the Comment will examine the court's use of common law deed interpretation principles in upholding property rights while preserving valuable public transportation corridors. Furthermore, the Comment will show how the Washington court's recent approach in interpreting railroad deeds has made recreational trail construction more appropriately a legislative matter, rather than a legal one. Section I of the Comment will begin with an historical overview of railroads in the United States, background on the public "Rails-to-Trails" movement, and an explanation of the underlying public policy and enabling federal law. Section II will then examine the leading federal case on railbanking. Section III will look at how Washington courts have addressed the railroad corridor preservation issue, particularly the Washington Supreme Court's reasoning pertaining to deed interpretation in Brown v. State. Section IV will address how the court has handled rail corridor quiet title actions subsequent to Brown. Finally, Section V will conclude with observations for future trail construction within Washington State.
Gregg H. Hirakawa, Preserving Transportation Corridors for the Future: Another Look at Railroad Deeds in Washington State, 25 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 481 (2001).