Testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Rail Subcommittee today Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), made the case for policies that encourage sustained private investment in the country’s rail network so freight rail can continue supporting the U.S. economy.
“In 2014 alone, America’s major freight railroads supported 1.5 million jobs, $274 billion in economic output, and $88 billion in wages,” said Hamberger. “It’s in the nation’s best interest that the benefits of freight rail continue to accrue, but that can’t happen unless rail infrastructure is up to the task. That only happens when railroads can reinvest in their networks.”
The Federal Highway Administration forecasts that the demand for U.S. freight will rise 41 percent by 2040. Hamberger told the subcommittee that railroads are today preparing for tomorrow’s anticipated capacity demands by investing more on their infrastructure and equipment than ever before. From 2012 to 2016, America’s major freight railroads spent $135 billion – or $74 million a day – of their own funds, not taxpayer dollars, on capital expenditures and infrastructure maintenance.
“While freight railroads operate and maintain their own infrastructure, most other transportation modes operate on infrastructure that is publicly funded,” added Hamberger. “Policymakers have a crucial role to play in ensuring that railroads can continue to make the kinds of investments that have made today’s U.S. freight rail network the envy of the world.”
The testimony features four principles for ensuring a vibrant rail network:
- Maintaining balanced economic regulations;
- Promoting public-private partnerships;
- Encouraging regulatory flexibility that allows the railroads to develop and improve infrastructure safety and performance; and
- Embracing a user-pay model that addresses modal inequities as well as rehabilitates the Highway Trust Fund.
In his testimony, Hamberger also called for adequate funding for Amtrak that allows them to keep their infrastructure in a state of good repair, as well as for commuter railroads to implement positive train control across their rail systems.