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AAR Urges Congress to Continue Safety Programs, Short Line Railroad Tax Credit Under SAFETEA-LU

April 8, 2011
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has called on Congress to continue supporting grade crossing safety programs, tax credits that help short line railroads remain competitive, and policies that encourage public-private partnerships for rail infrastructure as it considers reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, AAR president and CEO Edward R. Hamberger also urged the panel to reject policies that undermine railroads’ ability to compete or invest in infrastructure, including allowing bigger trucks onto our nation’s highways.

“America’s freight railroads operate on infrastructure that they own, build, maintain and pay for almost entirely by themselves, unlike trucks that operate on publicly financed highways,” said Hamberger. “The taxes trucks pay today do not come close to covering the costs associated with their use of the infrastructure that the public provides. This puts railroads at a competitive disadvantage that will only grow worse if existing truck size and weight limits are increased.”

Hamberger pointed to several existing programs that should be continued under SAFETEA-LU, including the Section 130 program that provides states with funding for grade crossing safety improvements, the short line railroad tax credit, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program, public-private partnerships for rail infrastructure, and programs that encourage regional planning organizations to consider freight transportation needs, such as railroad projects and intermodal projects. 

“An efficient and safe transportation system is essential to the growth and prosperity of our nation. Today’s system is overburdened and freight railroads stand ready to work with all to be part of the solution,” said Hamberger.

Hamberger also pointed out the need for regulatory certainty so that the freight rail industry could continue investing in infrastructure, delivering for American businesses, and creating jobs. In 2011, railroads plan to invest a record $12 billion in infrastructure and equipment. This level of investment is threatened by uncertainties created by issues such as the overly broad positive train control mandate; increased potential liabilities stemming from the continued obligation to carry extremely hazardous materials; proposals to impose a safety fee on railroads not charged to other industries; and proposals to create a freight fund to be financed by a fee on freight shipments.
 
For more information, visit www.aar.org.