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The Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council (RSTAC) is urging Congress to include short lines in any new infrastructure investment funding legislation.
The council's nine voting members believe that it's essential for federal lawmakers to treat small railroads and their connection to small shippers "equitably" in new infrastructure legislation now being considered, the RSTAC stated in a March 25 letter to the leaders of the U.S. Senate and House transportation committees.
Created by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, the RSTAC was created to advise the U.S. transportation secretary and Congress on railroad transportation issues of interest to small shippers and small railroads.
Small railroads provide the key "first- and last-mile" link for small shippers to the Class Is and deserve equitable treatment under federal infrastructure investment, council members said in their letter.
U.S. Department of Transportation grant programs for which short lines are eligible and other future programs "should affirmatively foster enhanced small railroad participation," the letter stated. Existing grant programs that accept applications from short lines include the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety (CRISI), Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) and Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA).
The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) echoed the sentiments expressed in the council's letter.
"Freight rail is a vital link the chemical distributor's transportation arsenal," said NACD President and Chief Executive Officer Eric Byer in a press release. "Significant investment in short-line railroads will lead to better connectivity, provide much-needed competition and enhance customer service for chemical distributors and other small shippers throughout the country."