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Aiming the Congressional Hammer

"There are many thoughtful, diligent legislators"

Written by Chuck Baker, President, ASLRRA

"Congress is one of the American public’s least favorite entities. Recent polling data puts the approval rating of Congress at 25%. Gallup’s long-standing “Confidence in U.S. Institutions” polling shows that Congress has maintained the lowest confidence rating of the 15 institutions listed since 2010.

Approval of the institution notwithstanding, Congress is made up of individuals, and when those individuals do good things, they should be recognized. The House of Representatives recently passed a huge transportation bill that combined the reauthorization of the soon-to-expire Surface Transportation programs and variety of additional infrastructure initiatives.

The legislation was drafted by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (T&I), and T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) did include some provisions that would help the short line industry, including increased funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, authorization of continued funding for the Short Line Safety Institute, increased multimodal flexibility for a state freight formula program, and maintenance of the current truck size and weight limits.

While the legislation contained several provisions detrimental to the short line industry, and we are so far unable to support the legislation because of this, we do note that many individual Congresspersons offered amendments in the T&I Committee and during Floor consideration to address these issues. Not all were successful, but these Members should be recognized and commended for the effort they made on behalf of the short line industry.

Representative Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) successfully amended the legislation to maintain the existing 25% CRISI set-aside for rural areas. Representatives Greg Pence (R-Ind.) and Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) had also sought to adjust the new CRISI set-asides and preferential treatment for public projects that would disadvantage private short line access to the program.

Representative Scott Perry (R-Pa.) led an effort by numerous Members of the T&I Committee to strike the two-person crew mandate. While that effort was unsuccessful, Representative Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) successfully amended the bill to raise the revenue of a small railroad subject to the two-person crew mandate to $40 million from the $20 million threshold in the original bill. While this mandate in any form remains our primary objection to the bill, and we will continue efforts to remove it in any final version of the legislation, we still note the incremental progress."

Read the full article from Railway Age here

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