WASHINGTON — Environmental, freight and passenger rail groups have come together with reform-minded transportation experts to form a coalition that will advance rail programs.
The coalition, called the OneRail Coalition, said it will encourage public policies recognizing rail as a critical element of the national transportation system and an essential part of the future economic growth and environmental well-being of the nation. Members include American Public Transportation Association, Amtrak, American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association, Association of American Railroads, Building America’s Future, National Association of Railroad Passengers, Natural Resources Defense Council, Railway Supply Institute, States for Passenger Rail Coalition, and Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.
The group contends that public policies that support both freight and passenger rail objectives are needed to maximize transportation options that enhance mobility, achieve energy efficiency, address climate change, boost economic growth and improve quality of life for all Americans.
“Rail must be an essential component of any national infrastructure investment initiative,” said Anne Canby, President, Surface Transportation Policy Partnership. “Rail provides a solution for many of our most urgent transportation, energy and environmental problems.”
“As we look to increase recovery and sustain economic growth, we ask that Congress and the administration focus investment on our U.S. rail system. That focus can help de-congest choke points, put more freight and passengers on fuel-efficient trains, and lower our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Frank Busalacchi, Secretary, Wisconsin
Department of Transportation and Chairman, States for Passenger Rail Coalition and a member of the 2008 National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.
Expanding passenger train options between and into U.S. urban centers would substantially reduce highway congestion, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing intermodal freight shipments on rail also can reduce greenhouse gas emissions; every ton mile of freight that moves by rail instead of long-haul truck reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least two-thirds. A coordinated approach of rail and truck shipping is already showing substantial efficiencies and net reductions in potential carbon emissions.
“Our nation’s surface transportation infrastructure should strive to provide interconnectivity and be environmentally sound,” said Amtrak President Joseph Boardman. “Increasing investment in rail — both passenger and freight — is a critical step toward achieving this goal.”
The OneRail Coalition wants “to bridge the goals of expanding intercity and commuter passenger and rail options across the country and the need to ensure the capacity, safety and integrity of the nation’s freight rail network. The group points to the findings of the 2008 National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission as part of the impetus to come together now.”
“The Commission’s findings were clear,” said Edward Hamberger, President and CEO, Association of American Railroads. “Increased investment in railroad infrastructure is essential to our continued mobility, economic competitiveness, and ability to create jobs, as well as to meeting the energy and climate challenges of the 21st century.”
Matthew Rose, Chairman, President and CEO of BNSF Railway and a member of the Commission, agreed.
“It is essential that all parties work together to ensure the Commission’s recommendations are acted upon and that all Americans experience the benefits that increased investment in rail infrastructure will bring,” he said.
OneRail’s objectives include:
— Expand and strengthen the nation’s passenger train network by encouraging the development of commuter and intercity passenger train options for all Americans and addressing a critical missing link in our nation’s surface transportation system. Needed solutions must ensure safety, achieve reasonable service levels, and provide enough capacity to protect the operations and future growth of both rail freight and passenger service.
— Enact policies and programs that expand public and private investment in rail freight mobility. This includes encouraging continued private investment in rail freight capacity to ensure that rail freight capacity will meet growing demand and public investment when that investment supports appropriate public benefits.
— Support state efforts to seek an ongoing, dedicated funding source for intercity passenger rail expansion. This includes designing a federal-state partnership and cost sharing agreements similar to those that built the nation’s federal-aid highways and transit systems.
The group said it is immediately focused on the economic stimulus and recovery legislation under development, but will be active on other legislative fronts in 2009. These include the next surface transportation authorization, and energy and climate legislation, the group said.
“Rail should be a key element of any federal response to climate concerns,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Executive Director Peter Lehner. “Improving surface transportation offers both immediate and long-term benefits by decreasing traffic congestion, helping to mitigate rising energy costs and reducing emissions related to global warming. We hope Congress will move quickly on these critical issues.”
“The formation of the OneRail Coalition will enable the rail industry to speak with one voice to federal, state and local policymakers and overcome years of serious public underinvestment in our nation’s rail network,” said Polly Trottenberg, Executive Director, Building America’s Future (BAF), an infrastructure initiative organized by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Trends all point to a robust future for railroads — passenger and freight,” William W. Millar, President of the American Public Transportation Association said. “America’s railroad community can gain strength with increased investment and through partnership, working together and growing together to serve America in the years ahead.”
— Edited from PRNewswire-USNewswire