In one of his first appearances before Congress as President of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), Chuck Baker testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety on the role Class II and III railroads play in supporting intermodal connections across the U.S. surface transportation network.
“The nation’s short lines are much more than a quaint name on the Monopoly Board, providing rail service into three of the nations’ busiest ports—Miami, Los Angles, and Long Beach,” stated Baker. “Likewise, various short line railroads operate as neutral switch carriers for multiple Class I railroads in key transportation hubs such as Chicago, New Orleans, and St. Louis.”
During the hearing, “Connecting America: Examining Intermodal Connections Across Our Surface Transportation Network,” Baker detailed infrastructure funding grant programs such as CRISI, INFRA and BUILD that have been used by short lines. He also urged support for Short Line 45G Tax Credit. “I know that tax legislation is not the purview of this Committee, but as the Committee that is the most knowledgeable when it comes to railroad infrastructure matters, I urge you to take our tax credit message to your Senate colleagues whenever and however the subject of transportation infrastructure is addressed in this Congress, and to address tax extenders expeditiously,” Baker said.
Baker offered multiple general provisions which would be important for short line participation in grant programs, including direct eligibility for short lines and simple and transparent processes for grant application and evaluation.
Baker urged the Committee to block heavier and longer truck initiatives, including pilot programs. “Short lines are part of a broad coalition of interests who are opposed to such weight and length increases,” he said. “Bigger and heavier trucks mean diversion from rail to truck, more expensive damage to highways and bridges, more highway congestion, more environmental damage and more danger for the motoring public. ASLRRA requested that any consideration of bigger trucks be tied to a full vetting by relevant authorizing committees.”
Baker called for the Committee to be continually vigilant of the regulatory environment. “We would be eager to work with this Committee on an updated version of the FRA regulatory reform bill introduced in the last session of Congress by Chairwoman Fischer for inclusion in an infrastructure or surface transportation reauthorization bill,” said Baker.
Download Baker’s full testimony.