US freight railroads face
ability to aid recovery
Feb 24, 2010 10:20 AM
Edward R Hamberger, Association of American Railroads president and chief executive officer, said freight railroads are at a critical point in their history as the industry is facing new challenges from overburdensome federal regulatory mandates that could seriously undercut the industry’s ability to aid in US economic recovery.
At a press briefing marking the release of a report titled Great Expectations: Railroads and US Economic Recovery, Hamberger said that while freight railroads have been able to weather the economic downturn, they stand to face even more difficult times.
“Freight rail is the only mode of transportation that is almost entirely self-sustaining,” he said, noting that as the recession continued through 2009, freight railroads invested approximately $9 billion upgrading and modernizing the nation’s rail network.
According to the AAR report, freight railroads generate nearly $265 billion in total annual economic activity, and directly or indirectly support more than 1.2 million US jobs. Every one freight rail job supports another 4.5 jobs elsewhere in the economy, the report said.
Additionally, privately owned freight railroads provide the literal foundation for the Obama administration’s vision for high-speed and intercity passenger rail. More than 90% of Amtrak’s operation moves on track rights-of-way owned by freight railroads; with the exception of a few express rail lines, the federal government’s plan for high-speed rail envisions sharing track with freight.
“Railroads face new policy initiatives that could hamper our ability to meet the great expectations America now has for rail to aid in our economic recovery,” Hamberger said. “Select legislative and regulatory proposals are creating an air of uncertainty at a time when there is already too much of that. When so much is riding on freight rail’s ability to sustain a healthy national rail network necessary to help America through to economic recovery, now is not the time to undermine our financial viability.”
View the report at www.aar.org/NewsAndEvents/PressReleases/2010/02/021810_HealthyRail.aspx.
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