BLE supports shortline rail infrastructure bill, H.R. 1020

After securing important employee protections, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers has agreed to support legislation that would provide $350 million per year in federal subsidies to rehabilitate Class II and Class III railroad infrastructures.

Known as the Railroad Track Modernization Act of 2001, H.R. 1020 would provide $350 million per year in grants for each fiscal year 2002-2004 to Class II and Class III railroads to rehabilitate, preserve or improve railroad tracks and bridges for freight transportation, particularly when handling 286,000 pound rail cars.

To secure BLE and other rail labor support, sponsors of the legislation, agreed to a grandfather clause, which prevents Class I railroads from spinning off lines in need of repair or with numerous bridges in an attempt to take advantage of the $350 million in grants.

The bill also contains employee prevailing wage protections, identical to those provided in the Davis-Bacon Act. The labor protection clauses provide basic pay standards for work performed as a result of H.R. 1020, as well as employee protections for employees who may be adversely affected by any project funded by a subsidy granted by the program.

In addition to the BLE, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and the United Transportation Union are supporting the legislation.

A recent trend among Class I railroads has been a switch to larger rail cars weighing 286,000 pounds. These cars are too heavy for the older tracks used by Class II and Class III railroads. One of the main goals of H.R. 1020 is to upgrade Class II and Class III tracks so they can safely handle the 286,000 pound cars. Without Federal assistance, many Class II and Class III railroads would be unable to upgrade their tracks to carry these heavier cars.

"A substantial amount of traffic on Class Is originates on the Class II and Class III railroads," said BLE International President Edward Dubroski. "This bill will provide much greater job security for the thousands of BLE members who work on Class II and Class III railroads."

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers