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.  

According to the American Association of Railroads, railroads account for 40 percent of intercity freight volume – more than any other mode of transportation.  However, our freight transportation system was not built for the explosive growth of coast-to-coast shipping and international trade experienced over the past two decades, and our economically vital gateways and corridors – our primary port, road and rail routes for shipping goods in and out of the country – now operate at or over capacity.  Freight bottlenecks and other forms of congestion cost about $200 billion, or 1.6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product a year (President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, 2009).  As freight tonnage is expected to increase 88 percent by 2035 (Federal Railroad Administration, 2009) it is imperative that investments in the nation’s freight rail network keep up with the projected demand.

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 in economically viable corridors 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 researchers 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.