Thursday, February 25, 2010

On Capitol Hill, industry leaders emphasize rail’s valuable role

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Support for a healthy national rail network is vital to sustaining more than a million jobs and powering U.S economic recovery, according to numerous freight rail representatives, their passenger rail counterparts, local business leaders, elected officials, and others (including representatives from Railway Age) who canvassed Capitol Hill Thursday as part of industry’s annual “Railroad Day on Capitol Hill” event.

Washington policymakers were reminded that freight railroads generate nearly $265 billion in total annual economic activity and that every freight rail job supports an additional 4.5 jobs elsewhere in the economy.
 
aar_logo.jpg“Sometimes when new federal polices are formulated, the true impacts on American businesses and consumers are not fully taken into account,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Who better to tell members of Congress of these impacts and importance of freight rail, than the employees, businesses, and local elected officials that work hard every day to deliver on freight rail’s vital role in the nation’s economic recovery.” 

“The federal government encouraged the creation of short line railroads to preserve freight service, and in doing so has facilitated the industry’s growth to 552 short line railroads that support tens of thousands of jobs,” said Richard F. Timmons, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.  “Federal policies like the short line tax credit will enable companies to make over $330 million in track upgrades each year, and support thousands of new jobs in the rail industry.”aslrra_logo_1.jpg

“Supporting funding for rail is a good investment in America’s future,” said Anne Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and founding member of OneRail, a coalition advocating for policies for passenger and freight rail. “Improving the nation’s rail infrastructure will create vital jobs, de-congest chokepoints, put more freight and passengers on fuel-efficient trains, and reduce our nation's greenhouse gas emissions.” OneRail brings together freight and passenger rail, transit, environmental, and labor groups. In this vein, Canby urged Congress to continue to make rail-related projects eligible for federal funding, such as infrastructure programs in the jobs bill currently moving through the Senate.
 
“Our community would not be what it is today without the railroads that connect our local manufacturing plants to global markets,” said Mayor Drew Ferguson of West Point, Ga., one of the 23 representatives of Go21 attending Railroad Day. “Access to railroads was a significant factor in Kia’s decision to locate in West Point.” Go21 comprises more than 1,200 state and local policy and business leaders from across the nation who support freight rail as a solution to problems related to highway congestion and the environment.
 
Industry representatives urged members of Congress to support the Investment Tax Credit, epitomized by bipartisan House bill H.R. 1806. The bill calls  fo ra 25% investment tax credit for targeted spending on locomotives, railroad track, intermodal facilities, and other infrastructure projects that expand rail capacity. The bill outlines that any business that makes these investments wouldbe eligible for the tax credit—not just railroads.

Also sought by the rail industry is the Short Line Tax Credit, advancing through both the Senate and the House as  S. 461 and H.R. 1132, respectively. This bill would extend the Section 45G tax credit, which supports over $330 million in infrastructure improvements made each year by short lines, contractors, suppliers, and rail customers. The credit expired on Dec. 31, 2009.