Railroads would get a nifty tax break under rail crossing safety legislation now circulating on Capitol Hill.

A bill proposed by Rep. William O. Lipinski, D-IL, would send the railroads' 4.3-cent per gallon fuel tax to the Department of Transportation's rail crossing safety program -- for five years, and then repeal it.
Railroads have long complained about the tax, arguing that they should not have to pay it because they maintain their own rights of way. Right now, the tax goes to pay down the national deficit.
Lipinski's concern is for rail crossing safety - he cited the fatal accident in Bourbonnais, IL, earlier this year when he introduced the bill. The rail fuel tax would add between $125 million and $150 million to DOT's Grade Crossing Safety Program.
But it's the final provision of his bill that is likely to cause alarm in trucking circles. The tax would be repealed Oct. 1, 2004.
The bill is now before the House Subcommittee on Ground Transportation.