The Alaska Railroad Transfer Committee is a successor organization to the Railroad Committee of the Old Seward/Ocean View Community Council, (OS/OVCC) a member of the Federation of Community Councils. The original Railroad Committee was created by the OS/OVCC following public concern over the implementation of the residential right of way use policy of the Alaska Railroad, and the claim of the railroad to an exclusive use of the railroad easement, traversing the council area.
Committee members have presented to fellow Community Councils, the Alaska Legislature and the office of the Governor on the subject to the history of the track easement of the Alaska Railroad, the nature of the easement pre-1982 transfer, the negotiations in Congress involved in the transfer in 1982 and have interviewed key participants involved in the Act and transfer.
The Committee has researched (1) documents and materials contemporaneous with these events, including the appraisal and transfer process of the Transfer Act, (2) documents retained in the archives of the State of Alaska and (3) contemporaneous documents within the library of the University of Alaska, Alaskana Section.
The Committee is concerned about a very simple matter, but one which is important to hundreds of property owners impacted by the Alaska Railroad track easement, users of public property which is crossed by the railroad track, and utility customers. All are affected by the track easement. The original easement is reserved for the used by the railroad for “railroad, telegraph, and telephone”. Through a series of maneuvers which include the Alaska Railroad transfer act of 1980 to the Alaska Railroad on by the state of Alaska has bootstrapped itself in the what is called “exclusive use”. “Exclusive use” claimed by the railroad allows the railroad to exclude all other users and to fence off the easement, which affects all of the foregoing users.
“Exclusive use”, the power to exclude others from use, is essentially ownership. Blackstone, and his commentary on the law of real property in 1753 famously stated the following:
“There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property; or that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe.”
What started as an easement has now become ownership for the state of Alaska. This shift in property rights constitutes the largest land grab in the history of the State of Alaska, and perhaps in the United States. This action is unjustified and is egregious. The Committee will continue to resist this and other incursions on the rights of others.