Susan Van Cleaf
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) toured the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Loram Maintenance of Way in Medina on March 28 and joined in a discussion on rail safety programs and continued economic development in greater-Minneapolis. She spoke with a diverse group of railroad stakeholders in Minnesota, including Class I railroads, short line railroads, railroad contractors, and railroad suppliers.
Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees railroad policy, She and the group spoke about a Senate bill to extend the Short Line Tax Credit that assists the private sector railroad industry. Speakers from railroad related groups called for predictable and dedicated capital investments, intercity passenger rail and no increases in truck weight or size. At current weight and size limits, trucks already cause damage to the nation’s highways, according to one of the speakers.
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 President and CEO Phil Homan led the facility tour.
“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,” Homan said. “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.”
“Rail supply companies are a vital component of the U.S. rail industry,” said Nicole Brewin, Vice President Government Affairs, Railway Supply Institute. “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.”
In Minnesota, 19 freight railroads operate over 4,200 track miles and employ over 4,500.
The group was also joined by Minnesota Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a statewide nonprofit, affiliated with Operation Lifesaver, Inc. Its mission is to raise awareness and provide free education to drivers and pedestrians 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 percent reduction in collisions between vehicles and trains. However, grade-crossing collisions remain a continuing concern.
On hand during Klobuchar’s tour were representatives from Loram, United Steel Workers Local 2002-9, Operation Lifesaver, Inc., Amtrak and local Minnesota railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, GoRail, the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, the Railway Engineering-Maintenance and Suppliers Association and the Railway Supply Institute.