How a “Free” Program Could Cost Over $500 Million

The National Law Journal has an interesting report on the rising costs of the federal “Rails-to-Trails” program.  What seemed like a neat way to create hiking and biking trails has spawned substantial amounts of litigation by landowners who assert the federal government cannot convert abandoned railroad easements to other uses without paying compensation.  According to the story, the Congressional Budget Office predicted the program would not cost anything.  Yet as NLJ reports, the federal government has shelled out $49 million to compensate aggrieved landowners in the past year alone, and some predict total liabilities will top $500 million.