VCTC seeks to block Fillmore & Western Railway petition

The Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) is seeking to block an emergency petition filed April 1 by Fillmore & Western Railway which would temporarily stop the commission’s effort to evict the railroad.
The railroad has petitioned the Surface Transportation Board, a federal regulatory agency, to prevent the eviction, citing allegations the VCTC is “...seizing the operation of a railroad in a profoundly unauthorized and unlawful manner.”

The commission filed an eviction complaint against the railroad in March when its prior cease and desist filing to halt further traffic, was ignored by the railroad on the 32-mile branch track owned by the commission.

In a countersuit, the railroad charged the VCTC unlawfully terminated the 20-year lease executed in 2001. The railroad seeks to consolidate the two cases which the commission opposes. The commission terminated the lease for the stated purpose of stopping a significant loss of money. The agency’s executive director, Darren Kettle claims while the commission has earned approximately $3.5 million from the agreement during the past 11 years, it has lost about $7.2 during that time due largely to track maintenance. Countering this allegation is the railroad’s claim that the loss is due to the commission’s mismanagement.

Fillmore & Western Railway claims it brings from 50,000 to 70,000 tourists to Fillmore yearly. The commission insists that the railroad’s petition is “wrong as a matter of fact and law”, while the railroad claims the commission is “seizing the operation of a railroad in a profoundly unauthorized and unlawful manner.”

Commission attorney W. Eric Pilsk, from Washington, has reportedly indicated a ruling on Fillmore & Western’s petition could take weeks or months.

Some facts in this story were obtained from the Ventura Star.