Hamel, MN — Senator Amy Klobcuhar (D-MN), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees railroad policy, joined representatives from Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc., United Steel Workers Local 2002-9, Operation Lifesaver, Inc., Amtrak and local Minnesota railroads for a tour of Loram’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and a discussion on rail safety programs and continued economic development in greater-Minneapolis. 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) coordinated the event. Together the groups represent a diverse group of railroad stakeholders in Minnesota: Class I railroads, short line railroads, railroad contractors, and railroad suppliers.
Founded in 1954, Loram Maintenance of Way started out as a small operation consisting of two simple machines, and a handful of employees. Today, Loram has become one of the leading suppliers of track maintenance machinery and services in North America and the global market. Loram provides maintenance of way services to Class I and short line railroads, transits, and commuter rails. They employ over 1,200 globally, with over 368 residing in Minnesota. Loram is a proud member of ASLRRA, GoRail, NRC, REMSA and RSI.
The facility tour was led by Loram President & CEO Phil Homan.
“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 Homan. “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.”
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar was elected in 2006 and is serving her second term. She is the first woman elected to represent the state of Minnesota in the United States Senate. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Klobuchar has been a leader in working to implement a competitive agenda to ensure businesses have the tools they need to grow and create good jobs in their communities.
The group highlighted Senator Klobuchar’s support of the BRACE Act, S.407, which would make permanent the Short Line 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.
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.
“Loram Maintenance of Way is a key supplier partner, providing equipment and services short lines need to maintain their rail infrastructure and operate safely and reliably,” said Linda Bauer Darr, president of ASLRRA. “The short line railroad tax credit, which would be made permanent by the BRACE Act, is an essential piece of the economic puzzle, allowing short lines to invest more of their own capital in rail improvements and maintenance to provide ever-safer and more robust service capabilities for their customers. Increased capital investments supported by the short line tax credit benefit the entire US rail supply industry.”
“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.”
“Thank you to Loram for hosting Senator Klobuchar today to share the importance of well-paying rail construction and supply job creation,” said Matt Bell, COO, NRC. “Railroad contractors in Minnesota and across the United thank Senator 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.”
“We greatly appreciate Loram’s leadership in hosting Senator Klobuchar to share their Minnesota rail supply success story,” said Sean Winkler, director of advocacy, REMSA. “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 Senator Klobuchar to ensure Minnesota businesses can efficiently and safely access the world market by rail.”
“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/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.”
The group was also joined by Minnesota Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a statewide nonprofit, affiliated with Operation Lifesaver, Inc. whose mission is to raise awareness and provide free education to drivers and pedestrians alike about how to make safer decisions around tracks and trains in an effort to bring the number of preventable tragedies closer to zero. Since the organization began educating people nationwide in the 1970’s there has been an over 80% reduction in collisions between vehicles and trains. However, grade-crossing collisions remain a continuing concern.
In Minnesota, 19 freight railroads operate over 4,200 track miles and employ over 4,500.