North Dakota railroad leaders in Washington facing uncertainty over infrastructure

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Railroads drove a massive spike in the growth of our country, but a shortage in federal funding could leave the industry in the past.

Dan Zink says a lack of certainty over the 45G tax credit hurts his ability to prepare.

“It’s been a real boon for our rural state like the state that I’m a native of in North Dakota,” said Dan Zink from Red River Valley and Western Railroad Company.

Zink is stressing the importance of short rails in North Dakota. Trains that ride these tracks generally cover small distances, connecting rural communities to major railway corridors. Zink’s Red River Valley and Western Railroad relies on what's called the "45G tax credit" to keep these trains rolling.

“45G has allowed us to invest in our track in our infrastructure out in those areas that was not getting the attention it deserved,” said Zink.

Under the tax credit, railroads get 50 cents back for each dollar spent on track and bridge improvements, up to 3500 dollars per mile. But it expired in 2017, and its future is at the mercy of Congress. Legislation currently sitting in both chambers would make the credit permanent. Zink says uncertainty hurts his planning.

“If we had some permanence to it it would be really valuable to us in terms of our planning and capital expenditures,” said Zink.

Zink is turning to Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) to help him out. The tax credit being in the hands of a preoccupied Congress means it could get lost in the shuffle.

“It’s always a priority for us in the tax extender package and will continue to be. You know, for some of the big states, urban states, it may be a different story,” said Hoeven.

Tax extender packages have renewed the tax credit on a short-term basis in the past. Hoeven says he’s optimistic it will be available in 2018 and cover work already done by these companies.

“Our farmers provide the lowest cost, highest quality food supply in the world and we have to get that to urban markets,” said Hoeven.

The legislation to make the credit permanent has 254 cosponsors in the House and 56 cosponsors in the Senate.