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U.S. freight railroads plan to spend an estimated $29 billion on their networks and hire about 15,000 people in 2015, according to the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) "2015 Outlook Report" released yesterday.The high-paying jobs and record railroad spending will further strengthen an essential transportation system that today is "powering a U.S. economic comeback," AAR officials said in a press release."By providing affordable, efficient and reliable transportation of goods, from lumber to oil to auto parts and grain, freight railroads continue to play a vital role in the positive economic trends rippling through the U.S. economy – including rising gross domestic product, improving employment statistics, and plummeting gasoline and heating prices," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger.The $29 billion in projected 2015 spending — which in part will be used to upgrade track and acquire new locomotives and freight cars — brings the railroads' private investments to $575 billion since 1980, the AAR report states."The result of spending more than half-a-trillion dollars of private funds over the last couple of decades makes this country's freight-rail system the envy of the world," said Hamberger. The new hires this year, of which an estimated 20 percent will be military veterans, join the ranks of rail workers whose compensation, including benefits, rate among the highest of any industry, averaging $109,700 per year, AAR officials said.However, "sound public policy and today's balanced economic regulations" make it possible for railroads to offer high-paying jobs, Hamberger said."The rail industry’s ability to move more of what our economy needs rests on its ability to earn the capital necessary to continue record private investments, while supporting jobs across the country," he said.
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