Even if CSX did sell/lease to LSRC, or another shortline, the trackage rights would have to be transferred to the new operator, which isn't necessarily a given, considering the situation regarding Grand Elk's access to NS' trackage rights in the Grand Rapids area (yes, I realize the factors are different, but it's also wrong to just assume that any new shortline operator would necessarily file all of the paperwork to get the rights transferred- most would, but assuming that all would do so is obviously incorrect). And considering CSX's trouble getting their trains across the Flint Sub, I'd think CN would protest transferring access to their single track subdivision to an unproven entity.
In the end, I believe CN will acquire the ex-PH&D property. Whether it's operated directly by CN, or subcontracted to a third party, the traffic will be added to CN trains into/out of the PH area, and CSX will finally just go away (from the PH area). I suspect that, CSX would get top dollar from a sale of the line, if it's really generating the kind of revenue it's been rumored to generate, but if the goal of those in charge of the company is to trim as much perceived 'fat' from the system as possible, the good things that have come from not selling this operation won't be enough to overcome the financial burden of continuing to maintain an active connection to the line, especially if someone else can do it for less and the entire connection can then be rationalized away.
Selling to LSRC wouldn't do anything to lessen the financial burden CSX would incur to continue to service the ex-PH&D, even if trackage rights could be transferred, they would still have various liabilities here to deal with, including taxes and any inherited environmental issues to answer for. Selling the line outright, especially to another Class 1, would likely transfer those expensive liabilities to someone else, which should help their balance sheet look a little better.
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