All fields are required.
— By Pat Foran, Editor
On March 2, railroaders, suppliers and rail shippers met with congressional leaders for the annual Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. Congressional offices hosted meetings for 456 visitors — a Railroad Day record, according to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.
As they have in previous years, the rail lobbyists for the day asked their elected representatives to oppose bigger and heavier trucks, and preserve “balanced regulation” and the short-line tax credit. Regarding the latter: They requested that their respective congressional reps cosponsor the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy Act, or BRACE Act. The legislation calls for making permanent the 45G tax credit, which expired Dec. 31, 2016. With all the tax reform talk, 45G has a real shot at becoming permanent this year, some believe.
From the meetings I sat in on, and from the conversations I had throughout the long day in D.C., it once again was clear that rail citizen advocates continue to get better at making their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Some of the more effective connections I witnessed involved railroaders and customers tag-teaming lawmakers or aides on the merits, say, of 45G. They connected it to jobs, to the efficient movement of goods, to the dot-connecting that is rail when it works.
In their zeal, some railroaders couldn’t help asking legislators/aides what they thought of the Trump administration’s talk of a $1 trillion infrastructure package. Considering that few details had been issued, and given the competing priorities (from health care to tax reform to any number of otherwise uncategorizable things we continue to read about), most lawmakers I heard demurred or attempted to tamp down expectations — for direct investment, certainly. Perhaps for good reason: Unveiled March 16, President Trump’s proposed federal budget would cut the U.S. Department of Transportation’s budget by 13 percent and terminate federal support for Amtrak’s long-distance service; eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (aka TIGER) discretionary grant program; and limit funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only.
Meanwhile, rumblings about the infrastructure bill persisted as this issue went to press. Some congressional leaders maintain it’ll pass this year; others say they hope to pass something in time for the 2018 election cycle. So, the legislative murkiness likely will linger awhile. Which is one reason Railroad Day participants were encouraged to tell their real-world rail stories on the Hill. From what I saw and heard, they did.