Smaller rail­roads seek Esty’s help

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Luther Turmelle lturmelle@nhreg­is­ter.com @LutherTurmelle on Twit­ter

THOMASTON » Mem­bers of Con­necti­cut’s rail­road in­dus­try want U.S. Rep. El­iz­a­beth Esty to push for es­tab­lish­ing a per­ma­nent tax credit that helps com­pa­nies pay for rail and bridge re­place­ment.

Esty, D-5, met with about half dozen in­dus­try of­fi­cials Mon­day at Rail­road Mu­seum of New Eng­land and the so-called Short Line Tax Credit was a prom­i­nent topic of dis­cus­sion.

The tax credit — which al­lows smaller rail­roads to claim a 50-per­cent tax credit for ev­ery dol­lar in­vested, up to a cap equiv­a­lent to $3,500 per mile of track — was en­acted in 2005. Congress let the tax credit ex­pire at the end of last year and of­fi­cials of Con­necti­cut’s freight rail­roads are hop­ing that Esty, who serves on the House Com­mit­tee on Trans­porta­tion & In­fra­struc­ture, can use her in­flu­ence to get the in­cen­tive re­stored.

Restor­ing the tax credit would al­low small rail­road op­er­a­tors to have a level of cer­tainty when plan­ning cap­i­tal projects, said Howard Pin­cus, pres­i­dent of the Nau­gatuck Rail­road Co.

“The abil­ity to plan things is crit­i­cal,” Pin­cus said. “We are look­ing at bridges that need to be re­decked. That can get pretty ex­pen­sive pretty fast.”

It costs $800,000 per mile to re­place old rails with new ones, said Jerry Vest, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Ge­ne­see & Wy­oming Rail­road, which is head­quar­tered in Darien.

The com­pany op­er­ates three short line rail­road in Con­necti­cut and has 536 miles of track in the state. The Ge­ne­see & Wy­oming op­er­ates the Con­necti­cut South­ern, the New Eng­land Cen­tral and the Prov­i­dence & Worces­ter rail­roads.

Vest praised Esty for meet­ing with state rail­road in­dus­try lead­ers.

“It’s won­der­ful that she’s here to lis­ten to our con­cerns,” he said.

Esty said help­ing smaller rail­roads thrive is crit­i­cal to Con­necti­cut’s economy.

“The larger rail­roads are not in­ter­ested in this mar­ket,” she said.

Cyn­thia Scarano, vice pres­i­dent of Mas­sachusetts-based Pan Am Rail­ways, said keep­ing smaller rail­roads in busi­ness is im­por­tant, even for those com­pa­nies that do use them.

“It helps keep trans­porta­tion costs down,” Scarano said. “It gives them (com­pa­nies that need goods trans­ported) op­tions.”

Pan Am Rail­ways serves cus­tomers in six Nau­gatuck Val­ley community as well as in New Haven, North Haven and Wallingford.

Call Luther Turmelle at 203-680-9388.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

U.S. Rep. El­iz­a­beth Esty, D-5, lis­tens to par­tic­i­pants at a round­table dis­cus­sion of freight rail­road ser­vice in Con­necti­cut at the Rail­road Mu­seum of New Eng­land in Thomaston.

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