Key Topic

Railways

We must move our goods more efficiently to ensure that we remain economically competitive with the rest of the world, grow the U.S. economy, and keep the costs of goods low for every American consumer.  

On an average day, some 43 million tons of goods valued at $29 billion move on the nation’s interconnected network of ports, roads, rails and inland waterways (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2008).   In 2003, freight logistics costs were 8.6 percent of GDP but rose to 9.5 percent in 2005, the largest such increase in 30 years. A full one-third of the increase in cost was attributable to inefficiencies in the transportation system (AASHTO, 2007).  Freight traffic on U.S. railroads increased more than 50% from 1990 to 2003 (The Brookings Institute: A Bridge to Somewhere, June 2008).   Freight bottlenecks cost about $200 billion or 1.6% of GDP per year (The Presidents Economic Recovery Advisory Board, December 2009).   If 10 percent of the long-distance freight that moves by truck moved by rail instead, we would save more than a billion gallons of fuel per year, and annual greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by more than 12 million tons – the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road or planting 280 million trees (Association of American Railroads: Rail Intermodal Keeps America Moving, May 2010).

We must also make investments now to ensure that high speed rail becomes a viable travel option for Americans. By creating a true high speed rail system we can reduce dependency on short-route airplane flights that could ease congestion in our airspace and reduce travel delays.   The environmental benefits of taking cars off the road and the likely reduction of short haul flights between cities that are served by a high speed rail line are compelling. According to the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Irvine, the proposed California high speed rail system will require one-fifth the total energy per passenger of a single typical single-occupancy car and one-tenth the energy of a commercial airplane.   The reasearchers have also forecasted a carbon dioxide emissions reduction of nearly half a billion pounds by the year 2035.

We must work to ensure that freight and people can move across the land at higher speeds while maintaining safety and reliability.