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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released an update of the National Rail Plan in a report, titled “Moving Forward: A Progress Report.”
The report builds on the Preliminary National Rail Plan that was mandated by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and submitted to Congress in October 2009. It outlines the numerous factors — past, present and future — that make the case for improving rail infrastructure.
“America’s economic vitality has been driven by investments in transportation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a prepared statement. “Giving rail a greater role in our national transportation system will help us meet the 21st century challenges of population growth, increasing energy costs, reducing carbon emissions and ensuring the nation remains competitive in the global economy.”
Among the findings: Current demographic analyses and forecasts anticipate continued population growth, especially in urban areas. Coupled with a corresponding increase in freight shipments, such growth will place additional burdens on transportation systems that are already working at or beyond capacity. The resulting traffic congestion translates into lost productivity that not only negatively impacts commerce, but degrades quality of life.
The progress report outlines a vision for high-speed intercity passenger rail; discusses the importance of a high-performance freight-rail network; and outlines how rail can help the USDOT reach strategic goals for safety, state of good repair, economic competitiveness, livable communities and environmental sustainability.
Next steps in the National Rail Plan process include identifying regions of the country where Core/Express, Regional and Emerging/Feeder corridors could be feasible for a tiered passenger-rail network; estimating investments to develop the passenger-rail network and improve freight-rail intermodal corridors; and analyzing the return on investment, including public benefits, from such improvements. USDOT also will include a comprehensive strategy to implement the plan with legislative, policy and administrative recommendations.
Once completed, the National Rail Plan will establish the framework necessary to begin laying a foundation that will improve the transportation network.
“Ensuring higher-performing freight and passenger rail systems is the key to integrating surface, air and waterway transport,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, adding that “a balanced and fully interconnected transportation network allows for the safe, efficient and seamless movement of people and goods.”
To download a copy of the report, click here, then follow the link at the bottom of the press release.