Thursday, February 18, 2010

AAR: Washington rail initiatives could hamper economic recovery

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Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger warned today that “freight railroads are at a critical point in their history as the industry is facing new challenges from over-burdensome federal regulatory mandates that could seriously undercut the industry’s ability to aid in U.S. economic recovery.”

Hamburger spoke at a press briefing on a new AAR report, “GreatExpectations: Railroads and U.S. Economic Recovery.”

greatexpectationsreport_final_page_01.jpg“Railroads face new policy initiatives that could hamper our ability to meet the great expectations America now has for rail to aid in our economic recovery,” Hamberger said. “Select legislative and regulatory proposals are creating an air of uncertainty at a time when there is already too much of that. When so much is riding on freight rail’s ability to sustain a healthy national rail network necessary to help America through to economic recovery, now is not the time to undermine our financial viability.”

He said that costly federal mandates and regulations could mean higher costs to businesses and consumers who rely on railroads for goods and services.

“Freight rail is the only mode of transportation that is almost entirely self sustaining," Hamberger said, noting that in a bleak recession the industry in 2009 invested $9 billion upgrading and modernizing the rail network. “We sustain a healthy national rail system with private capital and we also deliver tremendous public, economic, and job benefits to American businesses and consumers.”

According to the AAR report, freight railroads generate nearly $265 billion in total annual economic activity, and directly or indirectly support more than 1.2 million U.S. jobs.

The report also pointed out that freight railroads provide the foundation for the high speed and intercity passenger train network envisioned by the Obama Administration—noting that more than 90% of Amtrak’s operations relies on rights-of-way owned by the freight carriers.

“What’s more, policies that weaken the industry’s ability to attract investors could threaten high-paying American jobs with freight greatexpectationsreport_final_page_12.jpgrail companies, as well as those jobs connected to the railroads in areas such as housing, manufacturing, retail, and agribusiness,” he added.

“Great Expectations: Railroads and U.S. Economic Recovery” (CLICK HERE TO ACCESS A PDF DOWNLOAD OF THE FULL REPORT) provides an analysis of key policy initiatives in Washington, their potential impact on the industry, and possible solutions.