An unlikely coalition of Iowa labor, business, and environmental leaders is pushing congress to adopt a tax credit for the railroad industry. They argue building new freight rail lines will create jobs and reduce air pollution. Jerry Neff, the chair of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club points to a new report on fuel savings by the freight rail industry.
“Over the past few decades freight rail industry has nearly doubled the amount of goods shipped without increasing their fuel consumption. I think that is a huge accomplishment,” Neff says. The report says the rail industry increased its fuel economy by 38-percent since 1990 — compared to an eleven percent increase in fuel economy for the trucking industry.
“We’re really concerned about the pollution all those trucks on the highway have in comparison to what one train can carry,” Neff says. The executive director of Eastern Polk Regional Development in Altoona, Dan Coates, says that’s why they’ve been actively recruiting rail based businesses for the area.
“We started calculating cost to ship freight out of here particularly to the west coast and realized what a substantial savings it would be shipping by rail versus over the road trucking. Along with that it’s also becoming evident from an environmental standpoint it’s also a plus for us,” Coates says.
The two groups are lobbying congress to adopt a 25 percent tax credit on new freight rail infrastructure. Meanwhile, labor leaders estimate 7,800 jobs are created for every one billion dollars invested in rail line expansion.