Towson University: Freight Rail Commodity Flow Analysis

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Towson University’ Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI), commissioned by AAR, found that freight rail created $274 billion in economic activity, generated nearly $33 billion in state and federal tax revenues and supported nearly 1.5 million jobs nationally in 2014 alone. The RESI analysts completed a second report, which again includes 2014 data (the most recently available), that analyzes commodity transportation costs to quantify the economic and fiscal effects resulting from the shipment of commodities via Class I railroads. The following highlights are for 2014, which are the most recently available:

Steel and Steel-Related Commodities

Steel is one of the most widely used metals on earth – and the U.S. is the world’s third largest steel producer.

  • Amount Spent on Shipping: $9.6 billion
  • Direct Jobs Supported: 24,500+
  • Economic Output Generated: Approximately $23.4 billion

Power Generation and Distribution Commodities

Power generation and distribution commodities, such as coal, are some of the most essential products transported by Class I railroads.

  • Amount Spent on Shipping: $14.2 billion
  • Direct Jobs Supported: 36,000+
  • Economic Output Generated: Approximately $34.6 billion

Drilling-Related and Crude Oil Commodities

The U.S. is the third-largest producer of crude oil in the world and the number one consumer of petroleum products (derived from crude oil).

  • Amount Spent on Shipping: $5.8 billion
  • Direct Jobs Supported: 4,500+
  • Economic Output Generated: Approximately $14.1 billion

Agriculture Products

Approximately 25% of chemical products shipped in the U.S. are shipped via rail and fertilizers are a substantial portion.

  • Amount Spent on Shipping: $11.2 billion
  • Direct Jobs Supported: 28,500+
  • Economic Output Generated: Approximately $27.4 billion

Building Construction Commodities

The construction industry plays a critical role in the national economy, employing more than 6.6 million people as of August 2016, and adding approximately 4% the national GDP.

  • Amount Spent on Shipping: $10.1 billion
  • Direct Jobs Supported: 25,500+
  • Economic Output Generated: Approximately $24.6 billion
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