Tuesday, March 19, 2013

AAR lauds ASCE report grading rail industry

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The Association of American Railroads Tuesday praised a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) citing private freight rail infrastructure investments as a key factor for highlighting rail as the “most improved” sector of our nation's critical infrastructure systems.

ASCE Tuesday issued its “2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” assessing 16 of the nation’s major infrastructure categories, including transportation; “Rail” includes both passenger and freight railroads. AAR noted the ASCE report gave Rail an overall C+, up from a C-, with private investments resulting in greater rail efficiency and connectivity as a key reason for the improved grade.

Overall ASCE gave a D+ to U.S. infrastructure, up from a straight D in 2009, the last time ASCE issued grades, and equal to the grade ASCE first issued in its first study in 2001.

“It is truly gratifying that the world's premier organization of engineering experts recognizes the value and benefits that have resulted from freight railroads making private investments in our country's rail network infrastructure," said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. "It's also reassuring that ASCE recognizes that freight railroads need a regulatory and financial environment that will continue to make those private investments possible."

Noted ASCE: “Railroads are experiencing a competitive resurgence as both an energy-efficient freight transportation option and a viable city-to-city passenger service. In 2012, Amtrak recorded its highest year of ridership with 31.2 million passengers, almost doubling ridership since 2000, with growth anticipated to continue. Both freight and passenger rail have been investing heavily in their tracks, bridges, and tunnels as well as adding new capacity for freight and passengers. In 2010 alone, freight railroads renewed the rails on more than 3,100 miles of railroad track, equivalent to going coast to coast. Since 2009, capital investment from both freight and passenger railroads has exceeded $75 billion, actually increasing investment during the recession when materials prices were lower and trains ran less frequently.”

Along with the grade, AAR said, ASCE included several policy recommendations, such as the need to “support a regulatory and financial environment that encourages continued private investment in the nation’s freight railroad system.”

Hamberger noted that even during the recent economic downturn, freight railroads have invested roughly $22 billion each year to build, maintain and upgrade the country's nationwide rail network that serves both passenger and freight rail customers. In 2013 alone, freight railroads estimate they will spend a record $24.5 billio—investments made so that taxpayers don't have to, he pointed out.

“Freight railroads are the backbone of our nation’s logistics supply chain,” Hamberger said. “But freight rail’s success also relies on the health and well-being of the other modes of transportation to which we connect to serve our customers. If railroads are to move more people and more goods, and help American businesses compete in a global marketplace, we must support transportation policies that make private investments possible and that can translate into action.”

As for passenger rail, ASCE cited Amtrak’s record-high year for ridership as a factor boosting Rail’s overall grade. According to ASCE, “railroads are experiencing a competitive resurgence as both an energy efficient freight transportation option, and a viable city-to-city passenger service.”


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