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Railroads Power Modern Life

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 22/02/2016 Edward R. Hamberger
RAILROAD TRACKS © Takashi Kitajima via Getty Images RAILROAD TRACKS

Washington, D.C. residents can grow numb to the beauty that surrounds them. From the Capitol dome to the White House to the Washington Monument, these architectural wonders can ultimately become mere scenery. It's as though only new or odd sightings elicit genuine interest.
Such was the case when I recently saw a long line of tank cars moving molten sulfur on the tracks below my office building. These trains were going from Canada to Florida, where their contents will help create agricultural fertilizers. Those materials will then move by railroads to the U.S. heartland, helping America's farmers become the most productive in the world. Their food products will then go by rail to west coast ports for sale on the global market.
A dinner in Asia was made possible, in part, by the very train cars I saw in D.C.
This coast-to-coast, port-to-world case study exemplifies our rallying call in the year ahead: freight rail, within the context of an integrated transportation network, makes our contemporary life and economy possible. From everyday items as basic as the shingles atop millions of homes to the cars we drive, to massive equipment like the steel beams supporting our largest skyscrapers or the wind turbines powering communities, our industrial nation would not be possible without a transportation network that is built to carry the load.
Indeed, railroads are a key part of an overall shipping landscape that works seamlessly together to move a mountain of goods. According to the Federal Highway Administration's most recent Freight Analysis Framework, the nation's entire shipping ecosystem moves more than 17 billion tons of freight per year. For a population of more than 314 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that is roughly 54 tons of freight moved per year for every American.
The freight rail industry is proud of its unique role in this effort and believes Americans should know the compelling story of railroads and all they do to provide value to businesses and industries across the U.S.
We also firmly believe that our performance is made possible through private investments - more than $600 billion since 1980 - which we know correlates with sensible public policy that allows the industry to freely compete and grow. One constancy over numerous sessions of Congress and multiple presidential administrations has been the view that the global superiority of U.S. freight railroads is a direct result of a balanced system of economic regulation that relies on market-based competition, with a regulatory safety net available to rail customers who might need it.
The Association of American Railroads recently launched a new iteration of our Freight Rail Works campaign to bring this phenomenon to life and highlight how freight rail's investments in building, growing and maintaining the nation's 140,000 mile rail network ensures that railroads can play an integral role in working with all modes of transportation to safely and reliably move goods.
Freight railroads believe in intermodal collaboration but are unique in their ability to move especially large goods, like wheat or manufacturing equipment, long distances, which benefits customers, the economy and the environment. Today, freight railroads move a ton of goods an average of 479 miles on a single gallon of fuel, making rail the most environmentally friendly way to move freight long distances over land. This scale of operations also enables commodities to move more efficiently and at a lower cost than shipping smaller amounts of goods via other modes.
Freight rail accounts for approximately 40 percent of intercity freight volume, which is more than any other mode of shipping. And in 2015, the industry set a record for intermodal freight volume, moving 13.7 million containers and trailers. That is a whole lot of consumer goods.
We find this compelling and are eager to tell the world. If America wants to remain a global economic leader, we believe railroads, overseen by sensible policy that allows the industry to compete, must play a role in that effort.

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