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Nation needs to tap more of railroads' fuel efficiency and 'green' appeal, AAR's Hamberger tells Senate committee


The nation could save billions of gallons of fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons if more freight moved by rail instead of trucks, Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Edward R. Hamberger told members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation yesterday.

Railroads are almost four times more fuel efficient than trucks, Hamberger said during a committee hearing.

"If just 10 percent of the long haul freight moving by truck were shifted to rail, annual fuel savings would exceed one billion gallons," he said. "Railroads last year were able to move a ton of freight an average of 436 miles on a gallon of diesel fuel. It's like moving a ton from Boston to Baltimore ... on a gallon of fuel."

In addition, every ton-mile of freight that moves by rail instead of the highway reduces greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds or more. Freight railroads account for just 0.7 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, said Hamberger.
Commuters also would save time, money and fuel spent on congested highways. If 25 percent of freight volume was shifted from trucks to rail by 2026, commuters could save an average of 41 hours in commuting time, 79 gallons of fuel and nearly $1,000 in total congestion costs annually, said Hamberger.
However, rail capacity needs to be addressed via legislation to provide the funding necessary to improve and expand infrastructure.
"First, pass the Freight Rail Infrastructure Capacity Expansion Act (S.1125/H.R. 2116), which provides a 25 percent tax credit for investments in new track, intermodal facilities and other projects that increase capacity," Hamberger told committee members. "That credit would be available not just to railroads, but to any entity that invests in rail capacity expansion."
He also urged legislators to pass the Short Line Railroad Investment Act, which would extend short lines' tax credits that expired at 2007's end.