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REP. RICHARD J. CESSAR UNVEILS LEGISLATION FOR PENNSYLVANIA RAILWAY LOAN FUND TODAY

 REP. RICHARD J. CESSAR UNVEILS LEGISLATION FOR PENNSYLVANIA
 RAILWAY LOAN FUND TODAY
 HARRISBURG, Pa., June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Rep. Richard J. Cessar (R-30), Republican chairman of the House Transportation Committee, today unveiled legislation to create a $50 million Pennsylvania Railway Capital Loan Fund to fund maintenance and improvement projects along Pennsylvania's rail freight network.
 "During the 1970s and 1980s, Pennsylvania saw a significant reduction in its rail network. In-service route mileage declined from more than 10,000 miles in 1970 to under 6,000 miles today, and often these abandoned lines have had detrimental effects on local industries and employment," Cessar said.
 Cessar said one-third of Pennsylvania's remaining freight rail network, or 2,000 miles, is at risk of being abandoned or downgraded, affecting all levels of service throughout the state.
 Cessar said his legislation is necessary because the state's current rail grant program, the Pennsylvania Rail Freight Assistance Program, has been inadequately funded. In the current fiscal year, 93 applicants requested more than $43 million from the fund, but only $1.75 million in grants was disbursed for non-state-owned rail projects.
 He also said the grant program's $3.6 million appropriation is down from the previous year's $4.5 million, and that $1 million from the program was placed in budgetary reserve by the governor.
 "Every project that goes unfunded is a loss of potential new jobs and economic growth. This small but very effective grant program has been directly responsible for stimulating economic development and creating new jobs throughout the Commonwealth. It has not only encouraged new industries to expand or locate within the state, but has also benefitted the hundreds of existing industries in Pennsylvania that depend on efficient rail service," Cessar said.
 "In recent years funding has been cut and the program has been a target for deficit reduction maneuvers. We all know that the budget process, especially at this time of the year, is a competition among many different interests for a limited amount of state tax dollars. The Rail Freight Assistance Program is too important to Pennsylvania to be subject to this arbitrary process each and every year," he said.
 The bill would create the Pennsylvania Railway Capital Loan Fund through a $50 million bond issue that could be approved by voters as early as the 1993 primary election.
 Cessar said low-interest loans from the new revolving loan program would be used by railroads, shippers, municipalities and authorities to fund capital rail projects, including maintenance of rights of way and rolling stock and new facilities such as siding, terminals and switches. The loans could also fund acquisitions of rail lines that are up for abandonment.
 The legislation also:
 -- establishes an authority to fund improvements and expand Amtrak passenger service in Pennsylvania;
 -- creates three new seats on the Rail Freight Advisory Committee for representatives of rail, coal and steel unions;
 -- requires the state's Comprehensive Rail Freight Study to be updated every three years.
 "My proposal is not a hand-out. It's a loan, and just like any other loan program, the purpose is to provide an incentive boost to Pennsylvania's railroad industry. Railroads are good corporate citizens. They are significant taxpayers, contributing to the state's educational system through property taxes, to our highway and mass transit systems through fuel taxes and to business development and numerous other programs through gross receipts and corporate income taxes.
 "As we all become more attuned to the need for environmentally sound intermodal transportation infrastructure, the rail industry will take on even more importance in our freight transportation network. This program must be adequately funded if Pennsylvania is to share in the country's shifting emphasis to low-cost, environmentally safe rail transportation," Cessar said.
 The bill has the bipartisan support of more than 30 House members and has been endorsed by both Conrail and the Pennsylvania Railroads Association.
 /delval/
 -0- 6/23/92 R
 /CONTACT: Rep. Richard J. Cessar of the Pa. House of Representatives, 717-783-1490/ CO: Pennsylvania House of Representatives ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


MJ -- PH025 -- 2993 06/23/92 16:40 EDT
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Date:Jun 23, 1992
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