A June 6 New York Times article reported that Southern Pacific Railroad removed the branch line into Matagorda County because of a lack of business. While it is true that there was a lack of business on that line, the article left the impression that the risk posed by very high jury awards in that county did not play a key role in that decision. That impression was wrong; Southern Pacific, in fact, was driven by the need to limit legal exposure in a county whose civil justice climate had proven to be extremely hazardous.
Railroads must get Federal Government permission to abandon rail lines, and they must show adverse economic impact in order to obtain such permission. The lack of business on the track made it possible to remove the line, but the risk of legal exposure was the primary driving factor.
John E. Bromley
Director of Public Affairs
Union Pacific Railroad Company
Southern Pacific Railroad was acquired by Union Pacific Railroad in September of 1996.