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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA should provide loan to help New York port upgrade rail, Sen. Schumer says


On Monday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide a $1.5 million direct loan to the Port of Oswego to rehabilitate a rail line so the port can meet future shipping demands and increase productivity.

The port is part of the global supply chain for freight ranging from soybeans to aluminum, but deteriorating rail could hamper its ability to grow and compete, Schumer said in a press release. The FRA could provide the loan through its Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program, enabling the port to upgrade rail along the east terminal docks that hasn't undergone any major rehabilitation since 1963, he said.

The rail has deteriorated to the point that CSX Transportation has at times shut down activity, and rail at the north end is out of alignment, causing derailments on a consistent basis, said Schumer. In addition, the port has eight switches on site, none of which work properly, he said.

Over the past several years, the port's business "has exploded" due to its status as the only deepwater port on the U.S. shores of Lake Ontario, said Schumer. Commodities shipped out of the port include soybeans, windmill components, cement, chemicals, ores and minerals, including road salt. With better rail infrastructure, frequent shipments of soybeans, wheat, corn, aluminum and other cargo could increase, bringing another 250 to 500 rail cars annually to the port within the next year, Schumer believes.

"The federal government holds the keys to unlocking the full potential of this trade hub in Central New York," he said. "The fact that the Port of Oswego's rail line … has been left to decay is unacceptable, and the Federal Railroad Administration should immediately provide funding to revamp this crucial one mile of rail."

The RRIF program authorizes the FRA to provide direct loans and loan guarantees up to $35 billion to improve railroad infrastructure. Eligible borrowers include railroads, state and local governments, government-sponsored authorities and corporations, and joint ventures that include at least one railroad.