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Engineering professional services firm WSP USA has released the 2018 edition of the AASHTO Freight Rail Bottom Line Report. The goal of the updated study was to determine if the 2002 findings were still valid, given the changes in the economy and rail industry that have occurred, and to provide further guidance on the role of freight rail in public-private partnerships (P3s). The study can be used by state departments of transportation to inform key funding decision makers as well as to better understand the rail industry itself.

“The 2002 report concluded that minor investments in rail infrastructure yield major benefits for the public, which the WSP report found to still be true today,” says Alex King, of the WSP USA freight and logistic team and the report’s primary author.

The report provides guidance to states, answering three principle questions about public sector investment in freight rail infrastructure:

  • Why should the public sector continue to invest in private sector freight railroad infrastructure?
  • What types of infrastructure projects would benefit which industries that ship by railroad?
  • Under what circumstances should the public sector invest in freight rail transportation infrastructure; conversely, when should infrastructure be funded by the railroads alone?

According to the report, annual freight volume is expected to grow 60% by 2045, at the same time, U.S. highways are becoming increasingly congested with limited space to add lanes. Rail transportation will play an important role in handling the increased freight. Public benefits of rail transportation include its safety, production of fewer emissions, less highway damage, lower congestion, and fewer costs compared to trucking.

“The benefits make a compelling case for continued investment in the rail system,” King says. “Shifting freight from truck to rail can provide transportation savings and benefit society. Even just a 1% shift from truck to rail would eliminate 65 billion truck miles off U.S. roads and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between now and 2045.”

Click here, to download the report.

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