ASLRRA Working to Advocate for Railroads Experiencing Damage from Natural Disasters

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association

Railway Track & Structures' cover story for the November 2022 issue focused on the severe damage to the Seminole Gulf Railway in southwest Florida by Hurricane Ian. The storm not only impacted the railroad, but the service it provides to the community after a natural disaster occurs, especially moving building materials along its lines to support rebuilding efforts.

Surprisingly, disaster relief funds are not currently available to short lines. The severe weather events the nation has experienced of late have hammered short lines, and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association is advocating that Congress enact legislation that will provide financial support to the damaged/devastated lines so they can rebuild and resume service to their shipper communities.

In this week’s edition of the ASLRRA newsletter, Views and News, the Association said the following:

“ASLRRA’s government affairs team is advocating for policies that would provide emergency relief funding for short line railroads affected by natural disasters. In garnering support for this effort, the Association wants to hear from railroads that may be affected by current flooding in California or any other severe weather events.

“In December, Representative Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) introduced the Short Line Railroad Relief Act. The bill would authorize emergency relief funding for short line railroads through the U.S. Department of Transportation. While similar funding exists to help other transportation modes like highways and transit recover from disasters, there is no such program for small freight railroads.

“ASLRRA strongly supports the bill but, due to timing of its release, the bill was not passed before the end of the 117th Congress. Still, ASLRRA anticipates a similar legislative effort will advance over the coming months.

“The impact of Hurricane Ian on ASLRRA member Seminole Gulf Railway, which operates in Donalds’s district, encouraged the lawmaker to act. Seminole Gulf Railway suffered over $20 million in damage to its rail line, bridges and other infrastructure. Without the railroad, which regularly shipped construction materials and other building supplies, communities devastated by Hurricane Ian also found recovery difficult.

“Railroads currently struggling with damage incurred by natural disasters as well as railroads with stories about how they could have benefitted from emergency relief funding should contact ASLRRA’s Vice President of Congressional Affairs Zach Radford.”

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