By: BNSF Vice President of Federal Affairs Amy Hawkins
To facilitate this investment, freight railroads require a growing economy and good public policy; federal policymakers (thankfully) don’t need to provide the funds that railroads spend. But regulatory and other transportation policies have a large impact on freight rail investment, and the wrong policies can dampen what freight railroads spend.
Railroads have invested more than $685 billion in infrastructure and maintenance since 1980, when Congress passed the Staggers Act, a piece of landmark legislation deregulating the rail industry. Today, freight rail companies reinvest 40 cents out of every dollar of revenue back into their rail network. That’s roughly six times the rate of reinvestment of the average U.S. manufacturer.
This steady investment has made the rail network safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. Since 2008, the train accident rate is down 23%. In 2017, U.S. freight railroads earned an average of 479 miles per gallon of fuel and the average shipper can now move twice as much freight for about the same price paid in 1981.
All these advances are thanks, in part, to railroads’ commitment to investing and strengthening their network. Continual investment relies on the right regulatory environment.
While Congress and the administration grapple with the reality that the country’s publically-funded highways and bridges require more investment, they can take comfort in the fact that public policies supporting private investment in freight rail networks are relatively easier to achieve, and freight railroads are investing.