Infrastructure Investment Benefits Freight and Passengers
From VARPs On Track newsletter, summer 2008
By VARP board member and president Mike Testerman
You would think that freight railroads, unlike ethanol producers, wouldnt need government help to grow their business as the world bids farewell to cheap energy.
Id love to see a totally objective analysis of whether the
The next question is What should public investment pay for, that the private sector will never cover? There is a growing consensus, especially among rail passengers, that substantial public investment in the rail mode is needed, but we dont want to pay for anything that the private sector can and should cover. Its not as simple as the public paying for passenger-only facilities, because developers and businesses sometimes build stations or terminals, or match public spending on other rail improvements to increase the value of adjacent private holdings.
And its not as simple as the private sector building the facilities to handle all the freight that shippers would like to move by rail. Yes, a freight train can move a ton over
Since deregulation, the freight railroads have handled only the business they choose to haul. The notion of the common carrier railroad has almost completely disappeared in practice. Public policy said in effect, We have the Interstate Highway System. Forget rail.
That answer gave us the transportation problems we have now. But rail investment must be guided by more than the disappearance of cheap petroleum. Transportation policy must recognize these facts:
Publicly improved rail corridors serving intercity passenger trains are compatible with mid-range, open-technology intermodal freight trains. This is where the new profits are, stockholders!
Well never leverage the technological capabilities of the rail mode to meet the challenges of energy, climate change, and mobility as long as the private freight railroads make most of the infrastructure investment decisions.