February 25, 2016

Wyden, Crapo, Blumenauer, Jenkins Introduce Bill to Permanently Extend Short Line Railroad Investment

Bipartisan bill would provide certainty to railroads, boost rural economic development in Oregon

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) today introduced the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy (BRACE) Act, which would make permanent the tax credit that’s been crucial in helping to rehabilitate short line and regional railroads in Oregon and nationwide.

“Making this short line track maintenance tax credit permanent will create much-needed certainty for railroads that often are providing the economic lifeblood for small manufacturers and communities in Oregon,” said Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “That predictability will empower railroads to invest in the first and last mile of what is often a transcontinental journey for goods destined for factories, grain elevators, mills, and other vital parts of the economy.”

“Our nation’s short line railroads supply an invaluable service to small factories, mills, grain elevators, and other facilities in Oregon and across the country,” said Blumenauer, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “More than one million Americans in urban and rural communities are employed by rail customers on these lines. Making this tax credit permanent will help these railroads to invest in the critical rail connections that bring their goods to market.”

The short line railroad track maintenance credit provides short line and regional railroads a 50 percent tax credit for railroad track maintenance expenses, up to $3,500 per mile of track owned or leased by the railroad. Among other success stories, the credit has been crucial in helping to rehabilitate the turnaround of the Port of Coos Bay link in Oregon.

The short line railroads ensure that small manufacturers’ products can get to market in an efficient and cost-effective manner.  Last December, Wyden successfully fought to pass the Short line Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2015, which expanded and extended the credit through 2016. 

“On the Coos Bay Rail Link we work with our rail customers to make infrastructure investments that will last for the next forty years,” said Port of Coos Bay CEO John Burns. “Our business, and the businesses that depend on us, will benefit from the long range planning certainty provided by this bill. And it gives our customers, like Georgia Pacific, more reliable and economically efficient transportation options to move their products. The short line tax credit is a sound policy that drives real-world investment. It is time for Congress to place this policy on a solid and certain foundation for the future.”

“Short line railroads in Oregon serve employers both large and small,” said Jerry Vest of the Portland & Western Railroad.  “Sustainably-grown Oregon forest products are used to make the dream of home ownership a reality across the country.  Steel made in Oregon is used to build highways and buildings.  We connect all  these and other Oregon products with their destination.  This bill gives us the certainty necessary to increase our investment to improve these important Oregon connections.”

Oregon is home to 15 short line and regional railroads, which together make up 1,292 miles of freight track in the state—more than half of all Oregon freight rail lines.  These rail lines directly employ hundreds of Oregonians and serve as the crucial link to the dozens of rail-dependent businesses that would not be competitive without rail access.

Wyden and Crapo were joined on the Senate bill by Senators Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Bob Casey, D-Penn., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. Blumenauer and Jenkins were joined on the House bill by Reps. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill.