Opportunities Abound for Transporting Goods by Tram — If Properly Coordinated

Zurich CargoTram

» Though a proposal in Amsterdam has been abandoned and freight transport in Zurich and Dresden is limited, Paris considers options for using its new tramways to move goods to stores.

There was a lot of excitement in the transportation press in mid-2007 when Amsterdam signed a deal to allow the transport of local goods by tramway beginning in 2008. In theory, fifty light rail trains operated by a company called CityCargo would move freight from warehouses to local stores without interruption along the city’s existing and extensive passenger tracks, reducing the need for trucks in the city center by half while cutting down on pollution significantly. A network of 600 electric trucks would move the freight minimal distances from the trains to the stores.

Unfortunately, the company fell short of its goal to raise the €150 million necessary to commence operations and the city refused to subsidize the project, so the

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At the Heart of the U.S. Freight Rail System, Chicago Advances Grade Separation

Amtrak and Union Pacific outside of Chicago

» A grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will speed up both passenger and freight trains by eliminating delays caused by a grade crossing.

Chicago is at the center of the American freight rail system, handling 40% of U.S. rail freight on 500 daily trains. It forms the primary junction of the four biggest American freight rail companies — BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific — in addition to the two big Canadian carriers, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific. But the complex and intertwined web of tracks that brings trains into and out of the city is hopelessly out of date and causing congestion that limits the number of both freight and passenger trains that can run there.

Last week, ground was broken on the Englewood Flyover, a major element of CREATE, a grand scheme to eliminate such delays in the Chicago area. CREATE — which

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Freight as Passenger Rail’s Worst Enemy — Or Something Else?

Freight rail

» The American freight rail system is often cited as a world model that must be protected from the intrusion of passenger rail networks. But comparisons with passenger-heavy Europe are not as meaningful as have been suggested.

Among those who argue against the public funding of improved intercity passenger rail in the United States, the notion that such improvements would reduce the viability of the freight rail system is frequently cited. The argument goes like this: Passenger and freight rail are in competition for the same infrastructure, so encouraging people to ride the trains would make it more difficult to transport their goods. The end result could be a minor improvement in passenger mode share towards the railways and a significant mode shift of freight away from the railways, to the highways.

The American freight rail network, it is argued, is one of the best in the world, able to

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New Heartland Corridor Increases Freight Capacity Between East Coast and Chicago

Heartland Corridor Map

» When the government contributes millions to upgrade the freight railroad system, shouldn’t it ensure competition along the route?

The reopening of completion of renovations along Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor last week will undoubtedly improve the transport of goods between the East Coast and the Midwest. After $321 million in investments, double-stacked freight trains will be able to travel directly between Norfolk and Chicago in just two days, shaving 250 miles off the existing route — until now an impossibility.

It’s exactly the kind of infrastructure the United States must develop to encourage the use of efficient and environmentally sustainable railways for the transport of goods.

And yet the manner in which the project was funded raises important questions about the role of the government in financing transportation infrastructure and puts in question just how competitive the current freight market really is.

Though Norfolk Southern, one of the nation’s

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U.S. Withdraws Proposed Freight Rail Regulations But Fails to Address Conflict with Future Passenger Service

Freight Train

» Freight companies rejoice now that they won’t have to pay for passenger train delays.

It was inevitable: Distraught by the possibility of having to increasingly open up their tracks to passenger trains, the freight railroad companies have staged an open rebellion against a proposed U.S. policy that would have penalized them if they caused delays.

The rule, which was proposed in May by the Federal Railroad Administration, would have enforced “stakeholder agreements” that went along with funding for new or improved intercity rail routes advanced by state governments. In exchange for a public investment in track, signaling, and the like, freight rail companies would be required to ensure that passenger trains aren’t delayed by oncoming traffic or slowed-down cargo trains.

In the Omaha World-Herald earlier this week, reporter Joe Ruff described some of the opposition to these rules. D.J. Mitchell of BNSF railways, suggested that the situation was stacked against

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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