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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

House rail subcommittee hearing sheds light on rail's role in the U.S. economy


Yesterday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials held a hearing to examine freight and passenger railroads’ role in the U.S. economy.

Witnesses, who included representatives from the freight- and passenger-rail industries, rail suppliers, rail labor, think tanks and state governments, also addressed the impact of the current economic crisis on the rail industry, the economic and environmental benefits of freight and passenger rail, and current and future rail investment needs.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) shared some of the witnesses’ testimony in an item posted on the association’s Web site.

Union Pacific Railroad Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, and AAR Chairman Jim Young said: “From 1980 through 2007, freight railroads invested approximately $420 billion in both operating expense and capital investment. … This investment generates billions of dollars in economic activity to the rail supplier community. … In fact, we estimate that for every billion dollars in increased rail investment, 20,000 jobs are created.”

“When one considers the amount of freight we carry, our investment in American jobs and infrastructure, the safe and efficient manner in which we operate, and our benefits to energy consumption, the environment and congestion relief, the industry provides enormous benefits to the country,” said Young. “When comparing those benefits to the total cost to shippers and taxpayers, we have the world’s best, most cost-effective, environmentally friendly freight system in the world — one that keeps American industries competitive in the world marketplace.”

Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said: “This remarkable [rail] network provides surface connectivity for passengers and freight from coast to coast, and border to border. Congressional interest must make this investment a national priority for the next decade or beyond if we are to remain a competitive and healthy economic engine in the world.”

And Anne Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy project and a OneRail Coalition member, said: “Enhancing our rail network would provide a framework for successful public-private partnerships. Because most rail infrastructure is privately operated and maintained, there can be significant public benefit by shifting a greater share of freight to rail through reduced costs for new highway capacity and ongoing maintenance, as well as reduced energy use and GHG emissions.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/29/2009