The Cincinnati Southern Railway Board has decided to wait until July before deciding whether or not to inform voters of the $1.6 billion sale to Norfolk Southern in time for November's election.
The board announced in April that it would decide on the date of the elections by May 16.
The vote was unanimous, and there was no discussion about the reason for the delay.
The board will need to decide if it wants to send the sale to the voters on November 7, at its next scheduled meeting, July 11, The City Council will then be able to fulfill their ministerial duty to send the sale Hamilton County Board of Elections before Aug. 2.
If the board proceeds in July, supporters will have less than four months before the election to convince voters that the sale was a good one.
According to the new state law, the sale could take place in November 2023 or March 2024. The Ohio General Assembly passed changes to the state law earlier this year. Board members approved the changes on May 16, 2018. These changes were necessary to facilitate the sale. The board was required to approve the changes under the agreement of sale with Norfolk Southern in order to send the sale to the voters.
Norfolk Southern announced its proposed purchase of the city in November 2022.
In 1880, the city built a 337-mile rail line that runs from Chattanooga to Chattanooga in Tennessee as a tool for economic development and to create a north-south railway. The railroad is still used for freight shipping today. The railroad is operated by Norfolk Southern Railway Co. which leases it from the city.
Norfolk Southern will still have certain rights of use until 2051, even if the sale falls through. If the sale is rejected by the voters, then the city and company will likely go to arbitration to extend the lease, which the city believes favors the railroad.