U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), speaking just a few miles from where she grew up, told a crowd of Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc., employees that the work they do is the backbone of where the country needs to go.
The senator, who is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees railroad policy, visited the facility on March 28 for a tour, as well as a discussion with industry stakeholders regarding rail safety programs and continued economic development in greater-Minneapolis.
“Senator Klobuchar serves in a crucial oversight role and we appreciate her leadership advocating for increased infrastructure investments and encouraging the use of cutting-edge technologies on the rail network,” said Phil Homan, president and CEO of Loram. “The privately-funded and maintained freight railroad network is one of the few bright spots in America’s infrastructure network and recently received a ‘B’ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. It is critical that our lawmakers encourage policies that allow railroads to earn an appropriate return on their infrastructure investments so we can continue to safely expand and upgrade the network. Loram and our employees are extremely proud to provide railroads and transit systems innovative and reliable track maintenance machines and create jobs here in Minnesota.”
Several industry associations coordinated the event including the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), GoRail, the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC), the Railway Engineering-Maintenance and Suppliers Association (REMSA) and the Railway Supply Institute (RSI). In addition to Loram employees, industry stakeholders from United Steel Workers Local 2002-9, Operation Lifesaver, Inc., Amtrak and local Minnesota railroads also attended the event. Together the groups represent a diverse group of railroad stakeholders in Minnesota: Class I railroads, shortline railroads, railroad contractors, and railroad suppliers.
“Hands-on, local experiences like this are invaluable for demonstrating the freight rail story to policymakers,” said Larry Lloyd, Minnesota state director at GoRail. “Like Loram, thousands of businesses across the U.S. are directly and indirectly supported when railroads spend private dollars that create public benefits, from more efficient and cost-effective transportation for shippers to less congestion and pollution for citizens.”
Prior to the facility tour, the stakeholder group highlighted Sen. Klobuchar’s support of the BRACE Act, S.407, which would make permanent the shortline tax credit. The credit was retroactively extended to cover 2017 in the recently passed budget deal, but is currently off the books for 2018 and beyond. Sen. Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of S. 407.
“Forward-thinking, evidence-based federal policies are critical to the continued success of the rail supply industry. Our stakeholders here today look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Klobuchar to ensure Minnesota businesses can efficiently and safely access the world market by rail,” said Sean Winkler, director of advocacy, REMSA.
The group also spoke about the possibility of a Congressional infrastructure package. As a part of the package, the group called for predictable and dedicated capital investments for intercity passenger rail and no increases in truck weight or size. At current weight and size limits, trucks already cause more damage than they pay for to our nation’s highways.
“Railroad contractors in Minnesota and across the United States thank Sen. Klobuchar for being supportive of federal rail infrastructure investments. We also encourage Senator Klobuchar to continue to fight against increasing the federal limit of the size and weight of trucks that are allowed on our nation’s highways. Increasing federal truck size or weight limits would raise costs to Minnesota state and local transportation agencies and create unsafe conditions on our highways,” said Matt Bell, chief operating officer, NRC.
In Minnesota, 19 freight railroads operate more than 4,200 track miles and employ more than 4,500. Together, ASLRRA, NRC, RSI and REMSA represent more than 50 rail construction and supply companies in Minnesota.
“Rail supply companies are a vital component of the U.S. rail industry,” said Nicole Brewin, vice president government affairs, RSI. “America’s railway suppliers represent a $28 billion per year industry supporting more than 100,000 American workers. Investment in rail helps support rail supply jobs in heartland communities in more than 44 states and hundreds of congressional districts.”
Loram Maintenance of Way began as a small operation in 1954 consisting of two simple machines and a handful of employees. Today, Loram provides maintenance-of-way services to all markets of the rail industry and employs more than 1,200 globally, with more than 368 residing in Minnesota.