ABOARD AMTRAK’S SILVER STAR – Short line and regional railroads, suppliers and other stakeholders in the national rail industry are gathering in Washington March 7 for the annual Railroad Day on Capitol Hill.
The event, based at the Washington Marriott Marquis and organized by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), is an opportunity for rail interests from around the country to meet with House and Senate members and staff in a one-day lobbying blitz that the group says “puts a unified face on issues that matter to the industry.”
Short lines can already claim a victory in the current legislative session, after lawmakers extended the 45-G investment tax credit as part of tax reform legislation passed in January. They’ll push for a permanent 45-G in meetings with lawmakers, along with an agenda seeking modal equity especially where trucking is concerned, and funding for short line infrastructure upgrades.
The tax credit has helped fund $4 billion on capital improvements, but ASLRRA says another $10 billion is needed for installation of heavier rail, bridge repairs and improvements of legacy infrastructure that short lines inherited from abandoned or marginalized lines from Class I railroads.
They will be seeking a share of the infrastructure spending legislation now being discussed in Congress.
“It has been a 30-plus-year effort to create the vibrant network of 603 railroads that operate in 49 states and move one in five cars on the national network,” said ASLRRA President Linda Bauer Darr.
At the same time, railroads compete against other modes of transportation that do not cover their cost for the public infrastructure they use.
“We are advocates for modal equity, ensuring that infrastructure is paid for by a user-based system such as a diesel tax or vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee for those using the network,” said Darr.
The ASLRRA also wants to ensure that there is adequate consideration for project funding in rural areas, where many short lines operate.