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Nippon Sharyo Ltd. broke ground earlier this week on an expansion of its new U.S. rail-car assembly plant in Rochelle Ill. The expansion demonstrates that investment in American rail is good for the American economy, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote in his "Fast Lane" blog yesterday.LaHood attended the groundbreaking ceremony in Rochelle, where Nippon Sharyo will build a new metal fabrication and machining shop at the rail-car assembly plant that began production in June 2012. The company already employs 250 people at the plant, and the 330,000-square-foot expansion will require another 80 employees."Nippon Sharyo's $54 million investment [in the new facility] demonstrates what we've been saying for the past four years: investing in American rail is an investment in American jobs for American workers," said LaHood.The federal Buy America program, which requires all components of the Nippon Sharyo rail cars produced at the Rochelle plant to be manufactured in U.S. factories, helped bring about the Nippon Sharyo expansion, he added. The project will benefit the 80 additional workers as well as more than 200 potential suppliers and vendors in the Midwest, said LaHood."To safely, reliably and efficiently haul 100 million additional people and 4 billion more tons of freight per year in the next few decades, it is imperative for America to make bold investments in more under-utilized transportation alternatives such as rail," he wrote in his blog.