Washington, D.C. — This week, GoRail delivered a letter jointly signed by over 450 local and state elected leaders, economic development officers, chambers of commerce, advocacy groups and rail supply companies to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) and to congressional leadership opposing forced access. This policy change as well as several other new rail regulations were first put before the STB in July 2016 and are still pending.

Forced access would open up the private lines of one railroad for use by another, compelling railroads to share the tracks they pay to maintain with competitors. Given past experience — the sorry state of the freight rail system prior to 1980, when government intervention was the rule of the day — and studies on the impact of prior forced access proposals, freight railroads anticipate that these policy changes would ultimately undermine their ability to invest in infrastructure. When infrastructure can’t be preserved, safety and efficiency suffer. This is one of the reasons major shippers like UPS oppose forced access.

In the letter, the signers emphasize the economic importance of a healthy freight rail system. “[Private railroad investments] mean jobs for our companies and a powerful catalyst for economic development in our communities,” they write.

A companion op-ed by GA State Rep. Brett Harrell, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System CEO Paul C. Jablonski, and York County, Pa., Commissioner Christopher Reilly, published on D.C.-based news site Inside Sources, further examines the repercussions of freight rail reregulation:

“As signatories on that letter, we know how much our communities rely on freight rail. We know that the STB rule would undermine local rail service, and moreover, that today’s balanced regulations are the key to a safe and economically viable rail network. In communities across the country, this rule would upset that balance, undercutting rail investment, placing local jobs in jeopardy, undermining local control over passenger train dispatch and exposing our neighbors to a less safe rail system.

And we are of course not alone in our thinking. More than 25 national organizations recently wrote to the same set of Congressional leaders rejecting this push for re-regulation, echoing years of nonpartisan analysis opposing unnecessary government intrusion into the sector.

Now is the time for the STB to withdraw this misguided proposal. If they do not, Congress should exercise its oversight authority.”

There is much at stake regarding forced access and other reregulation proposals. Businesses, consumers and communities across the country rely on the efficient connections provided by railroads — and they benefit from the private investments that contribute to rail’s safety, sustainability and productivity. GoRail will continue to monitor the status of these proposals and provide updates and opportunities for our advocates to weigh in.


Russ McGurk
By Russ McGurk

Russ McGurk co-founded GoRail, then Growth Options for the 21st Century, in 2004 and helped develop the original strategic plan and core mission that have made GoRail pound-for-pound one of Washington’s most effective grassroots issue advocacy organizations.

  • Rennyrij

    It is not clear, as to Whether, Who, and When each rail line is going to do major overhaul and corrective maintenance to their own roads. That there is definite need for relaying of double track in places where Conrail tore up the second track, thus removing needed passing trackage, is a given. Super-elevation at curves seems to have fallen by the wayside in many places, and these needs must be addressed. It is all well and good to say “these people signed this letter”, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN, EXACTLY? And will there be new trackage put in place, where the Rail-Trail groups have taken the road-bed? I was assured, quite a few years ago, that if the railroads wanted to come back, the Rail-Trail groups “would be willing to share” the roadbed. Compared to the rest of the world, we are far behind in our rail passenger service. We need passenger railroad, and it occurs to me that putting the RPO’s back would speed up the mail, and provide jobs for mail sorters, and take the overabundance of traffic off the highways.