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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Small-road tax-credit bill enters Senate, but congressional vote won't happen until spring, ASLRRA says


Regionals' and short lines' most recent congressional push for federal infrastructure-improvement funds now has entered both houses. Earlier this month, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) introduced to the Senate the Local Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2003 (S. 1703), which was referred to the Committee on Finance.

Since it was introduced to the House as H.R. 876 in late February, the bill has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. But H.R. 876 continues to pick up steam on Capitol Hill, and so far has garnered more than 150 co-sponsors. The magic number chief bill supporters believe would help push the legislation through Congress before the current session ends in December 2004: 200 co-sponsors, says American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President Richard Timmons.

"We keep pushing that boulder up the hill," he says. "But we sense that because there are other pressing issues in Washington, the bills will not come up for a vote until next spring."

The bills would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide short lines and regionals an income tax credit for track maintenance expenditures — funds many roads need to address 286,000-pound-car-related infrastructure shortcomings.

Tax credits would be capped at $10,000 for every track mile regionals and short lines own or lease, and small roads would be able to transfer credits they can't use to other roads, shippers, suppliers or contractors. Credits would be issued against qualified track maintenance expenditures (such as maintaining or upgrading track, roadbed, bridges and related structures) that small roads pay or incur after Dec. 31, 2003, and before Jan. 1, 2009.

Regionals and short lines — which number 563 in the United States — operate 50,000 track miles in 49 states, employ more than 23,000 workers at an average wage of $47,000 and earn $3.5 billion in annual revenue, according to ASLRRA.

Jeff Stagl

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/17/2003