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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals
Tax credit extension would benefit Saratoga & North Creek's freight and passenger service, Schumer says
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) continues to advocate for passage of the Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2013 (H.R. 721/S. 411).
At a train station in Saratoga, N.Y., yesterday, he stressed how an extension of the Section 45G short-line tax credit would help the Saratoga & North Creek Railway (S&NC) improve infrastructure for both freight and passenger service. H.R. 721/S. 411 would extend the tax credit — which is set to expire on Dec. 31 — through 2016. Originally enacted in January 2005, the Section 45G provision enables regionals and short lines to claim a tax credit of 50 cents for every dollar spent on infrastructure improvements, up to a cap of $3,500 per mile of owned or leased track.
S&NC was launched in July 2011 as a passenger-rail service between Saratoga Springs and North Creek. Currently, the railroad serves about 50,000 passengers annually, including skiers and holiday travelers. Upgraded infrastructure would enable the short line to increase ridership as well as begin hauling minerals out of two Adirondack mines, said Schumer in a press release.
An Iowa Pacific Holdings L.L.C. subsidiary, S&NC owns a 30-mile line from North Creek to Tahawus that ceased operation nearly 25 years ago and is in need of significant repair, he said. Last year, the short line received permission from the Surface Transportation Board to reestablish the line to haul titanium tailings that were left over from mining operations at a former National Lead site during World War II. The line also will serve a garnet mine in North River.
In 2014, S&NC plans to re-commission the line and begin hauling the titanium tailings. Iowa Pacific expects the short line to haul 200,000 tons annually from the former National Lead site, with annual tonnage projected to reach 500,000 in subsequent years. Track renewal from North Creek to Tahawus will cost a minimum of $1 million for the first year of operation, and additional funds will be required as tonnage ramps up, said Schumer.
In addition, S&NC in January plans to begin operating passenger-rail service twice daily each Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Saratoga to North Creek and the Gore Mountain Recreation Area. Trains will connect with Amtrak service to and from New York City, providing new options for overnight visitors and making Saratoga Springs an attractive staging location for winter activities, said Iowa Pacific spokesman David Simpson.
S&NC officials believe annual tourist ridership can double to 100,000 by working with the Saratoga hospitality industry and Gore Mountain on more coordinated promotion; creating a shuttle between the Thurman station and Lake George; and integrating service more seamlessly with Amtrak to bring tourists from New York City and the Hudson Valley to North Creek.
"The Saratoga & North Creek Railway has numerous opportunities for growth and development, for both its passenger-rail line and its freight-rail line, but only if they have the capital to make needed infrastructure improvements," said Schumer. "Adding new freight capacity and new passenger rail service will not only benefit the railroad, it will bring more tourists and investment to the region, connect smaller communities and businesses with the national rail network, and create jobs."
Earlier this month, Schumer stressed that an extension of the short-line tax credit also would help Finger Lakes Railway upgrade an 11.5-mile line it's in the process of acquiring from Norfolk Southern Railway. American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association officials believe Congress will extend the tax credit sometime next year.
Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.