The Pam Am Railways train derailment in downtown New Britain in December was caused by improperly maintained tracks, The Herald reported earlier this month. The Federal Railroad Administration determined that the cross ties in that area of track had rotted and widened, causing the track itself to widen and the train to derail, resulting in nearly $80,000 in cleanup expenses - so far paid for by the city.
Thus, it was probably not coincidental that Cynthia Scarano, vice president of Pan Am Railways, was one of the members of the state’s railroad industry who met with U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty earlier this week, to push for establishing a permanent tax credit that helps companies pay for rail and bridge replacement.
The Short Line 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 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, the New Haven Register reported.
Letting the credit expire has been a big loss for small railroads, on which many Connecticut businesses depend for options when they need to transport goods.
“It helps keep transportation costs down,” Scarano said.
And, of course, properly maintained rail lines keep communities safe from accidents like the one in New Britain.
President Trump has promised to unveil his infrastructure rebuilding plan soon. Here’s hoping he doesn’t forget the important role that rail lines play in our nation’s economy.