Norfolk Southern plans to tear up the rails and ties in the coming months on its no-longer-used rail line in Newton County, after the federal Surface Transportation Board approved Aug. 20 the company’s right to officially abandon the line.
Norfolk Southern has not officially exercised that right yet, but Norfolk Southern spokesman Rick Harris said it’s common for time to pass between the company receiving abandonment authority and actually removing the ties and tracks.
The four bridges on the line will also be removed, Harris said. There was previously some question about the bridges, because the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said previously the bridges — which were built in 1916, 1921, 1922 and 1925 — could be historic. However, Norfolk Southern said the bridges had no distinguishing characteristics from any other bridges in the region or on the company’s rail system.
Norfolk Southern still owns the land and continues to market it for sale; Harris couldn’t confirm whether there were any current negotiations, as he said those would be private. The line went up for sale in late 2012 at a cost of $3.95 million; while doing research, Covington grant writer Randy Conner previously calculated the amount of land along the rail line as around 115 acres.
City and county officials previously discussed purchasing part or all of the rail line for various uses — the first being the need to purchase a half need to purchase a half acre of track land for a civic center — but the governments have long since given up any plans to purchase the line.
Local nonprofit Newton Trails had considered the federal process of railbanking, where a group purchases a rail line and converts into a trail, but the group would have needed outside money for such a project. The Newton Trails board chairman could not be reached for comment.