Alexandria, VA – Last July, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which provides economic regulatory oversight for railroads, announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to consider several new rules that would effectively re-regulate freight railroads.

One of the most significant proposed changes, most accurately referred to as “forced access,” would require railroads to open their lines to competitors at rates and schedules determined by the government. The policy would not only create network-wide inefficiencies — affecting an estimated 7.5 million carloads of traffic — but it would also undermine freight railroads’ ability to invest in the nationwide rail network. One estimate of a similar proposal says that forced access would jeopardize some $8 billion in rail revenues.

At a time when our policymakers are struggling to identify solutions for addressing the nation’s infrastructure woes, the STB should not enact new policies that jeopardize an industry that spends billions of private dollars annually on its infrastructure. Since 1980, when the Staggers Rail Act was passed by Congress, over $600 billion in rail investments have doubled network productivity, cut the train accident rate by 79 percent and lowered shipper rates by 45 percent.

As always, it is our goal at GoRail to demonstrate how freight rail policies will affect the public at the local level. To this end, several GoRail advocates spoke about the STB proposals and their potential consequences in their local newspapers. Here are excerpts from a few of those op-eds and letters to the editor.

“This ‘forced access’ proposal is confiscatory and myopic. It would blunt private investment and effectively ‘nationalize’ the private movement of freight.”
– John Horan, Chairman of the Seminole County Board of Commissioners, in the Daytona Beach News-Journal
“The bottom line is that a reduction in rail infrastructure spending will wear the system down, reducing service levels and risking safety. Businesses here in Mississippi and across the country that rely on efficient freight rail service will inevitably find themselves affected.”
– Mayor Bill Luckett, Clarksdale, Miss., in The Clarion-Ledger
“To sustain and reinforce ongoing progress toward enhancing our local freight rail options, our federal leaders need to support a healthy national freight rail network. That means partnering with business and labor to reject STB proposals re-regulating railroads.”
– Mayor Michael Passero, New London, Conn., in The Day
“If we want to ask freight railroads to haul more freight, make room for high-speed rail, and take pressure off of our congested and under-funded highways, while at the same time reducing potential for a return on investment, we create a recipe for disaster.”
– Patrick Sherry, Executive Director of the National Center for Intermodal Transportation at the University of Denver, in the Denver Post

The complete list: