Study says: $148 billion needed for rail improvements

About $148 billion must be invested to expand the nation's freight rail infrastructure over the next three decades to prevent freight from being shifted to highway transportation, according information from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

"Without this investment, 30 percent of the rail miles in the primary corridors will be operating above capacity by 2035, causing severe congestion that will affect every region of the country and potentially shift freight to an already heavily congested highway system," according to the study conducted by Cambridge Systematics.

The National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study explores the long-term capacity expansion needs of the continental US freight railroads. It highlights needed investment in new tracks, signals, bridges, tunnels, terminals, and service facilities that railroads need to keep pace with demand for rail freight transportation, which is expected to almost double over the next 30 years, AAR said.

The study found that most of that investment, $135 billion, will be needed on the rail networks operated by the nation's major freight railroads. The study notes that under current conditions, the railroads anticipate that the marketplace will allow them to raise most of the needed investment, $96 billion. However, it states that a gap would remain of about $1.4 billion per year, an amount to be funded through railroad infrastructure tax incentives, public-private partnerships, and other sources.

The study has been submitted to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, established by Congress to report on the nation's future transportation needs and how to finance them.

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