A tax credit intended to help short-line railroads improve their tracks, signals and other infrastructure is due to expire at the end of the month, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said he wants to extend it through the end of 2016.
"The health of our small businesses and local economies depends on infrastructure," he said during a press conference at the Saratoga Springs rail station Monday morning.
The Saratoga & North Creek Railway, which operates passenger and freight trains from the Saratoga Springs station to North Creek, is upgrading a line that runs from North Creek to former mines in Tahawus, where it plans to haul rocks left over from mining operations to customers who would use it for aggregate used in construction and as a source of rare earth elements used by the technology industry.
The Saratoga & North Creek also would haul garnet from the Barton Mines, reducing the amount of truck traffic on local highways, he said.
Schumer's measure, the Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2013, would extend the tax credit that covers half the cost of infrastructure improvements up to a maximum of $3,500 per mile of track. Expanding the railroad's freight business, Schumer said, would give it a reliable source of revenue and allow it to create 15 full-time jobs.
The Saratoga & North Creek, a unit of Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings, has operated passenger trains for more than two years along the former Delaware & Hudson line to North Creek. This winter it will increase the frequency of its seasonal snow trains, which operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday, to two round-trips each day.
In the warmer months, it ran multiple trains daily. Railroad spokesman David Simpson said the company would eventually like to connect with Amtrak trains at Rensselaer, as well as at Saratoga Springs, which it does now. One challenge: congestion on the Canadian Pacific rail line from Saratoga Springs south, which has become a busy corridor for the movement of crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields to the Port of Albany.
Schumer said the railroad and tourism officials also are exploring shuttle service between the Thurman station and Lake George, a popular summertime destination for tourists.
The Saratoga & North Creek, which now carries 50,000 passengers a year, wants to double that figure to 100,000, Schumer said.
Copyright 2013 - Times Union, Albany, N.Y.