About $148bn must be invested to expand the nation's freight rail infrastructure over the next three decades to make sure that adequate rail capacity exists to meet future demand, according to the results of a first-of-its-kind study to measure rail capacity needs. The recently released National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study was conducted by Cambridge Systematics and commissioned by the Association of American Railroads.
"These investments will help the freight rail industry ease highway congestion, reduce stress on highways and bridges, significantly lower transportation-related energy consumption and emissions, and maintain existing capacity for Amtrak and local commuter rail," said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. "If these investments aren't made, everyone in the country will feel the impact."
The study paints a dire picture if freight rail capacity isn't increased: "Without this investment, 30 percent of the rail miles in the primary corridors will be operating above capacity by 2035, causing severe congestion that will affect every region of the country and potentially shift freight to an already heavily congested highway system," it concludes. Most of the needed investment would be for new tracks, signals, bridges, tunnels, terminals and service facilities that freight railroads need to keep pace with demand, which is expected to almost double over the next 30 years. Under current conditions, the railroads anticipate that the marketplace will allow them to raise $96bn between now and 2035, leaving a gap of about $1.4bn per year.
That gap would be significantly reduced if Congress would pass the pending infrastructure tax credit, says Hamberger. "This legislation would provide a 25 percent tax credit to any company-- not just railroads--that invests in projects to increase the rail network's capacity. Passage would be a strong move in the right direction." The study has been submitted to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, established by Congress to report on the nation's future transportation needs and how to finance them.
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