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ASA Supports the Short Line Railroad Relief Act

As we continue to manage supply chain disruptions within the construction industry, ASA joins the short line railroads in their quest to receive immediate financial relief after natural disasters. These railroads transport a range of products from various industries including manufacturing, agriculture, energy, chemicals, minerals, metals, timber, etc.  Only a handful of short lines are government-owned, and none are publicly traded; most short line railroads are private, small businesses.  Without short line railroads, freight would generally be diverted to highways, which could cost shippers up to four to six times more per shipment, or production would shift to other areas/industries.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance is limited to public entities and Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are capped at $2 million; thereby, time is of the essence when it comes to providing short line railroads the necessary relief to repair their critical infrastructure and resume their economically vital transportation operations.  U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)-led disaster relief programs provide extensive aid for several modes of transportation, including highways and transit, but there’s currently no meaningful financial relief for short line freight railroads.  Commercial insurance for short lines is often unavailable, does not provide adequate coverage following a natural disaster, or is unaffordable at a viable rate for small businesses.  Short line railroads are generally one natural disaster away from being forced to close shop, which would ultimately result in gaping holes and negative impacts throughout our country’s volatile supply chain.  In 2008, Congress appropriated $20 million for short line disaster relief grants on a competitive, ad hoc basis.

The Short Line Railroad Relief Act introduced by Rep. Donalds (R-FL) would authorize the establishment of a permanent disaster relief program to provide much-needed immediate financial assistance to our nation’s short line railroads.  It would allow the DOT Secretary, in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administrator, the authority to issue grants and enter contracts to provide capital for projects that protect, repair, reconstruct, or replace equipment and facilities that have suffered catastrophic damage.