February 16, 2017

Crapo Leads Bipartisan Bill to Spur Rail Investment

Provides Certainty to Rail Customers, Boosts Rural Economic Development

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow have introduced the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy, or BRACE Act, which would make permanent a critical tax credit used to repair and upgrade short line railroads.

“Our agriculture communities rely on small business freight railroads to connect their products to markets across nation and around the globe,” said Crapo.  “These are crucial economic corridors that serve our communities across the nation.  This measure will allow short line railroads to make long-term plans for infrastructure repairs and upgrades, improving the link between our rural communities and the national freight railroad network.” 

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. The short line railroads ensure that small manufacturers’ products can get to markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. 

In Idaho, federal tax incentive legislation introduced and passed by Crapo is credited in part for a the rail expansion project, whose effects will be felt from Burley to Pocatello, to Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and Boise.  Crapo is now working with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and others to make this change in the tax code permanent.

“Last fall, I visited with Watco Companies in Burley and Boise and saw, in person, how important short line railroads are to companies here in Idaho,” added Crapo.  “Companies like Watco and its rail partners employ more than 150 Idahoans.  Thanks to legislation like the BRACE Act, that number will increase as added shipments are utilized.”

Since 2006 Congress has acted periodically to extend the credit, often retroactively and often almost a year after expiration.  This uncertainty causes private investment to decline, limits investments in safety and customer service, and provides uncertainty to businesses, farmers, and employers that cannot be globally competitive without freight rail.

“The team members on the Boise Valley Railroad, the Eastern Idaho Railroad, and the Great Northwest Railroad focus every day on the needs of Idaho farmers, timber producers, and industrial customers,” said Ed McKechnie, Watco Companies Chief of Global Strategy. “Senator Crapo’s efforts in support of rural transportation have built a strong bipartisan coalition in Congress and has made tremendous impacts for the Idaho economy. We appreciate his leadership and we will continue to put our customers first and invest in Idaho infrastructure with the support of this important bill.”

Crapo and Stabenow’s bill is also cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

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