|earliest known usage||(unknown)|
|used by||railroad managers and government|
|A section of railbanked track in Sauk City, Wisconsin, in 2015. Note that the track has been severed where it crosses the road and the rails have been saved on the right-of-way for its future reinstallation in the crossing.|
verb: to preserve a railroad right-of-way for future use by a railroad entity. "This stretch of track has been railbanked for a planned extension of service."
This term grew out of the need to preserve rights-of-way. The U.S. Congress passed a bill in 1983 amending the National Trails Act to allow railroad entities to preserve rights-of-way for future and potentially as-yet undefined rail transportation uses. In doing so, the railroad company could ensure that even though no trains were using that specific section of track and the track was effectively (although not actually or legally) abandoned, the land would not be sold and redeveloped. Railbanked rights-of-way are often opened to the public for use as trails in the interim until the land is needed again for railroad use.
The process of railbanking was first overseen by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). When the Surface Transportation Board (STB) was formed in 1996 to replace the ICC, it assumed oversight of the railbanking process as well. In the 1998 reauthorization for the STB, it was noted that the ICC issued 285 railbanking orders preserving 3,223 miles of right-of-way across the country. As part of the process, the STB now assists railroad companies in establishing agreements with other entities over the use of the land. There have been several objections raised by opponents of railbanking, but so far (as of 2015), the process has been upheld by regulators and defended in cases heard by the Supreme Court of the United States.