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Infrastructure funding: Federal tax-credit bill more likely to gain congressional stamp of approval than grant legislation, ASLRRA believes


American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) is shifting its lobbying weight behind the Local Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2003 (H.R. 876), which would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide short lines and regionals a credit against income tax for track maintenance expenditures.

Introduced in late February, the bill would cap tax credits at $10,000 for every track mile regionals and short lines own or lease, and enable railroads 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.

Although ASLRRA officials would prefer a federal grant program to help fund infrastructure improvements — such as The Railroad Track Modernization Act of 2001 (H.R. 1020) that would have appropriated $350 million a year in grants for small-road track projects, but died in Congress last year — they believe tax-credit legislation stands a better chance of navigating congressional waters. And small roads — which continue to struggle to find ways to pay for 286,000-pound-car-related track improvements — need federal funds now.

"The effort to enact H.R. 1020 demonstrates there is no such thing as free money," ASLRRA officials said in the association's recent newsletter. "The growing budget deficit makes enactment of grant legislation doubtful [because] a prevailing wage requirement will be forced on the proposal, and the bill will be blocked over an ideological disagreement between the two parties."

The House Committee on Ways and Means is conducting deliberations on H.R. 876. In the meantime, ASLRRA plans to seek co-sponsors for the bill, as well as continue to lobby Congress for grant provisions and solicit Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Funding program loans from Federal Railroad Administration.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/9/2003