March 03, 2015

Wyden Introduces Bill to Spur Investment in Short Line Railroads

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

 Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) today introduced the Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2015, which would extend the short line railroad track maintenance tax credit that expired in 2014.

“Small railroads provide a critical service to communities and businesses across Oregon, and this bill means continued investment in important infrastructure,” said Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “The short line rail credit empowers railroads to make investments 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 in Oregon and across the country.”

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.  This credit has been crucial in helping to rehabilitate short line and regional railroads around the country, including the miraculous turn-around of the Port of Coos Bay Rail Link in Oregon. These short line railroads serve as the lifeline to many Oregon manufacturers, ensuring that their products can get to market in an efficient and cost-effective manner. This provision expired at the end of 2014 as part of the tax extenders package. 

“We in Coos Bay know firsthand just how essential the credit has been for our local economy and the hard-working people in our community who rely on the jobs provided by a well-maintained short line,’’ said David Koch, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Coos Bay. “We strongly support Senator Wyden’s work on this vital issue and look forward to extending this much-needed lifeline for small railroads here as well as throughout Oregon and the nation.”

“As highways like I-5 become more and more congested, we have a choice to make as a nation,” said Jerry Vest, Assistant Vice President of the Portland & Western Railroad and the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad.  “By allowing us to maximize our investment in infrastructure, the Short Line Tax Credit provides a private solution to our transportation challenges and it improves the global competitiveness of rail customers, all while improving our environment and preserving our highway infrastructure.  The employees of the Portland & Western and the Central Oregon & Pacific appreciate Senator Wyden’s action on this issue.” 

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 bill by Senators Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., John Boozman, R-Ark., Bob Casey, D-Penn., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.