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Murphysboro train issues

This is a portion of Murphysboro's North 23rd Street, where residents and business owners were told they have to pay Union Pacific Railroad to access their properties.

MURPHYSBORO — Murphysboro city officials will be asking Union Pacific railroad representatives to show proof that the rail giant maintained any part of the embattled Murphysboro road it is claiming is part of its property.

Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens made the announcement Tuesday at the City Council meeting, saying he and the city attorney spoke on the phone earlier in the day with Union Pacific railroad representatives.

Stephens said he was not sure what the city's next move should be, but wanted to reach out to see if Union Pacific could contribute documentation to the discussion.The railroad company reportedly suggested alternate egress and ingress routes, neither of which city officials considered viable. 

At the meeting, officials recounted recollections and bits of documentation from city employees and North 23rd Street residents vouching that the city had maintained the property for decades, dating back as far as the 1960s.

In September, some residential and commercial property owners learned that Union Pacific claimed they were trespassing on its property, North 23rd Street, as they accessed their own homes and business. One resident showed up at a City Council meeting to share her dilemma, saying she learned of it as she was preparing to sell her property.

City Attorney Ed Heller said he had spoken to a man who grew up on the street and who now works with his family's business, Hines Oil.

"He knows that nobody but the city has ever done any maintenance on that road," Heller told City Council. "(There is a) statute that states a road used for public purposes for 18 years, the public has the right to continue using that as a street, and that's really what our case would be about.

I want to see the railroad's records of any maintenance they've done. If the railroad doesn't have any record of any maintenance they've done, we do have record of our maintenance. And as much as nobody itches for a fight with the railroad, unless they've got strong evidence that they're maintaining it, which I've never seen, I think we have a good cause for prescriptive easement that says that that is a now street, as we have called it for many, many years."

A few months ago, a resident of North 23rd Street came to the City Council meeting to share that she had received a letter from Union Pacific saying she was trespassing on property that belonged to it, as she used it to get to and from her home. The railroad company also proposed to fine her and charge her a daily rate to use the road for access, she said.


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Stephanie Esters is a reporter covering Jackson and Union counties.

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