Friday, September 22, 2017

Rep. Westerman tours OUCH; discusses 45G

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Rep. Westerman during a tour of OUCH. Rep. Westerman during a tour of OUCH. Office of Rep. Bruce Westerman

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR-04) joined Ouachita Railroad Company (OUCH) Sept. 20 for a tour of the railroad and to discuss issues facing the shortline rail industry.

 

There are 19 shortline railroaders operating through Rep. Westerman's district, the most of any congressional district in the U.S., according to the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA).

"Investment in rail infrastructure expands economic opportunity for manufacturers and other job creators," said Rep. Westerman. "Make no mistake – the investment made by the Ouachita Railroad Company and other shortline railroads in Arkansas boosts our economy and employs Arkansans in good-paying jobs. I am proud that more shortline railroads call the Fourth Congressional District of Arkansas home than any other district in America."

Michael Robbins, general manager for OUCH, led a tour and the rail stakeholder group discussed the importance of the 45G shortline tax credit to maintaining a reliable and safe freight network. Section 45G expired at the end of 2016. ASLRRA explains that since 2005, a series of one- and two-year extensions of the credit enabled small freight railroads and their customers to reinvest billions of dollars to improve American transportation. The Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy Act (the "BRACE Act") would make the tax credit permanent. The BRACE Act currently has 246 cosponsors in the House and 53 cosponsors in the Senate.

"The Ouachita Railroad is a stellar example of the work of the shortline railroads in connecting small communities to the U.S. economy through efficient rail service and providing a boost to the economy in the broader regions that they serve," said Linda Bauer Darr, president of ASLRRA. "The BRACE Act is a critical piece of the economic puzzle, allowing shortlines to invest more of their own capital in rail improvements that provide ever-safer and more robust service capabilities for their customers."

OUCH operates freight service from a connection with Union Pacific at El Dorado, Ark., to Lille, La., that stretches 12 miles. Traffic consists of chemical and forest products. OUCH is a former Rock Island branch line operated by the South Central Arkansas Railroad from 1982 until taken over by the East Camden & Highland Railroad in 1983. In 1990, the East Camden & Highland Railroad sold the line to Arkansas Short Line Railroads, Inc.