This year, Americans held what may have been the most subdued observance of the Fourth of July in the nation’s history. There were few parades, town celebrations or fireworks displays in recognition of the nation’s birthday. In short, there were essentially no parties or events, so few people had reason to go anywhere.
I’m all in favor of cost effective, well-planned system expansion projects, providing we bring our existing transit assets up to a state of good repair first. But we need to stop wasting millions on transportation feasibility studies for future system expansion projects that may never happen in our lifetime.
There are things the regulators don’t tell you about marshaling and storing freight cars, such as how to detect rail head wear. Most railroad executives would not know how to do this. This commentary will include a few pointers that your favorite Class I railroad salesperson won’t typically pass on as business intelligence. Bad things can and do occasionally happen in rail yards. Therefore, it is prudent risk management to consider these matters ahead of time.
In my most recent Railway Age article entitled “U.S. Railroads Resurgent With Digitization at Just the Right Time,” I described how the railroads were the driver of U.S. growth, expansion and prosperity. They provided the spine for the economy to flourish.
This writer began working on this series on June 19. It was Juneteenth, the day an increasing number of Americans of all colors and heritages now view as an occasion to celebrate freedom. Part of the freedom that many Americans treasure is the freedom to travel, as stated in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The “right to travel” is one thing, in the sense that government cannot unduly restrict travel (as questionable as that assumption may appear these days), but there is also the issue that this sacred “right” can be limited if access to mobility is also limited. Millions of Americans who depend on Amtrak for part of their travel are about to lose a significant portion of the mobility they have today.
If I had a $100,000 for every time the rumor mill shouted out that Kansas City Southern was on the auction block, I’d be a multi-millionaire with a collection of exotic cars rivaling that of Jay Leno, and racing a Corvette C8.R in the IMSA Series, with my son Craig as crew chief. (I wouldn’t own a private railcar, because Amtrak wouldn’t want to haul it around the country, and if they did, they’d probably overcharge me. But that’s another story.)
There is only $70 million for advancing an environmental study for the $10 billion (estimated) Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel within the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey 2017-2026 Capital Plan. This leaves a $9.930 billion shortfall to complete this freight rail project. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) continues to claim that there is real progress for his favored project. He has championed this as his number one transportation priority for 30 years. But after all that time, project is still stuck in the federal National Environmental Protection Act review process.
ASLRRA PERSPECTIVE, RAILWAY AGE, JUNE 2020 ISSUE: National survey data indicate that 70% of Americans have not left their homes to visit family or friends, more than 50% have not gone into work, 20% do not leave their home to shop for the essentials of life, and 33% have someone in their household that has either lost a job or took a pay cut because of the coronavirus outbreak. A stunning 39 million Americans have filed for unemployment since early March.
WATCHING WASHINGTON, JUNE 2020 ISSUE: This question should be at the forefront of the Surface Transportation Board’s agenda: What is the future of rail freight transportation? The STB should put all its other discretionary regulatory work to the side and call in the railroads and key stakeholders and facilitate a discussion of how the industry can recover to serve the future American economy. All internecine sniping and conflict should be pushed aside.
In response to Jim Blaze’s interesting “Railroad Mega-mergers” article from earlier this week, I’m not sure that the historical perspective will apply in a developing “new normal” business economy in the United