By Dave DeLuca
No, he’s not your long-lost uncle that left you a fortune in his will. In fact, he’s not a person at all. Bailey Branch is a portion of land that Benton County purchased from the Union Pacific Railroad.
The land runs along an abandoned railroad line from Greenberry Road south to the city of Monroe and west past the city of Alpine. The 17.7 miles of unused land was bought to preserve the right-of-way for future public benefit. What does that mean, you ask? It means that the land now belongs to Benton County, but they don’t know what to do with it.
$496,383.98 was the cost of the purchase, including escrow and environmental review. What we, as taxpayers, received for our money was a narrow strip of land which will soon have no railroad ties, spikes, or any other remnants of usable equipment or supplies. We have purchased land whose original purpose ran its course. The land has no practical use, today.
This purchase, however, was made with tomorrow in mind.
“We now have an asset to keep if and when railroad service returns to the area.” These are the words of Benton County Commissioner Linda Modrell. “If we don’t own it, we can’t control what happens to it.”
Modrell envisions a future in Benton County with an increased need for freight to accompany an increased population. The Bailey Branch Corridor is a long way from being usable for anything, much less passenger or freight trains. It’s difficult to envision it being used for anything else.
Benton County representatives will be holding two public town hall meetings on the subject of the Bailey Branch rail line corridor. They will be explaining the reasons for the purchase and defining key assets along the line. They are anxious to add public opinion and ideas to the strategy for the land moving forward.
The first meeting will be at the Monroe Library on Tuesday, July 8 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The second meeting will be held at the Corvallis Library on Thursday, July 10 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. A map gallery display and early conversations will begin at 3 p.m. prior to both meetings.
For more information on the Bailey Branch and the town hall meetings, go to www.co.benton.or.us.