Advocates: Rail-Friendly Policies Key to Getting the Nation’s Economy Back on Track

WASHINGTON — Railroad advocates from around the country recently urged members of Congress to keep freight rail working for America by supporting policies that move the nation’s goods, build a green infrastructure and create jobs across the country.

Local government officials, business leaders and environmentalists — in Washington as part of Railroad Day 2009 — told lawmakers that Congress must preserve the balanced regulation that has made America’s freight rail system the most cost-effective network in the world. Increased government intrusion in the railroads would cripple efficiency and the railroads’ ability to be the most fuel-efficient form of ground transportation today,

“Freight railroads are a great American success story,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), one of Railroad Day’s sponsors. “We deliver real savings and quality of life benefits to consumers – just about everything that keeps America moving forward.”

Railroad Day advocates shared with member of Congress that railroads, too, have been hit hard by the recession. Thousands of boxcars and locomotives are in storage, and thousands of employees furloughed. But railroads, which deliver 43 percent of the country’s intercity freight, want to get America moving again and are ready to roll again  once the economy picks up, Hamberger shared.

Despite current economic conditions, Hamberger pointed out that freight railroads continue to plan future investments. He noted that the railroads have committed $9 billion in capital expenditures in 2009 alone. “All efforts should be focused on how to grow the nation’s rail networks so more people and more goods can move by rail,” he said. “Rail is the cleanest, safest, healthiest form of transportation today.”

Rail advocates are encouraging lawmakers to support investment incentives that will stimulate the rail network’s growth. The Department of Transportation estimates that demand for freight transport will skyrocket in coming years and now is the time, rail supporters maintain, to encourage public-private partnership projects.  “Business and government must partner if we are to help get America back on track,” Hamberger said. “Support for improving the nation’s infrastructure must include support for freight railroads.”

America’s freight rail system is the best in the world, Railroad Day advocates told lawmakers. It connects large and small U.S. businesses with the global marketplace and does so in an efficiently and environmentally sound way. Rather than hinder growth and efficiency with burdensome regulation, Congress should be working with the railroads to stimulate the economy, create jobs and promote sustainability.

In addition to support from AAR, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the Railway Supply Institute, the Railway Tie Association, the Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association, the Railway Systems Suppliers Inc. and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association sponsor Railroad Day 2009.