Freight Rail Would Save Time and Fuel

Published July 3, 2008

A study released July 1 by the Association of American Railroads, written by Heartland Institute Senior Fellow Wendell Cox, shows that expanding freight rail would dramatically reduce congestion, pollution, and fuel use in urban areas … without unfairly burdening taxpayers.

The seventh annual Congestion Relief Index found that by shifting 25 percent of freight from trucks to rail by 2026 that on average each commuter would save 41 hours of drive time, $985 in congestion costs, and 79 gallons of fuel each year.

“In order to realize the full potential of freight rail in reducing highway congestion and saving commuters’ time and money, we need to ensure that there is sufficient rail capacity,” said Cox.

Commuters across the country are having to deal with rising gas prices and increased road congestion. According to Cox’s study, Las Vegas, Nevada and Riverside-San Bernardino, California commuters would see the greatest impact, saving more than $2,000 and 85 hours of congestion delay hours per year.

In a related study for The Heartland Institute, Cox found, “Unless action is taken soon, freight rail bottlenecks will cause shippers and consumers to pay higher prices, causing business productivity to fall and more congestion on the nation’s highway system to impose billions of dollars of losses on commuters and consumers.”

Cox contends that by unshackling freight rail from excessive regulation and by encouraging private investment through public-private partnerships and tax incentives we could reduce these problems without placing an unfair burden on taxpayers.

For more information on this topic, the following articles may be of interest.

Executive Summary: Solving the Freight Rail Transportation Bottleneck (html) (pdf)
The capacity and reliability of the nation’s freight system can be improved by changing public policies to direct more capital to expanding freight rail infrastructure at key bottleneck sites around the country. This report shows how the nation’s freight rail bottleneck can be solved without unfairly or unduly burdening taxpayers.

Policy Study: Solving the Freight Rail Transportation Bottleneck
This Heartland Policy Study by transportation expert Wendell Cox describes how to prevent a freight rail bottleneck in the U.S. Benefits from expanding rail’s share of total freight shipping include higher productivity growth, lower prices for shippers and consumers, and less highway congestion. A market approach to reform would enable freight rail to maintain its current market share, while a public approach would expand rail’s share of the freight market. Cox reviews 11 reform techniques and approves six of them.

Study Shows that Freight Rail Can Reduce Gridlock on America’s Highways
The seventh annual Congestion Relief Index, a study of traffic congestion in 82 major urban areas, shows that freight rail can help reduce time spent in gridlock traffic, thus saving drivers hundreds of dollars in gasoline and hours behind the wheel.

For further information on the subject, you can visit The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, where you will find articles on the issue available through PolicyBot, Heartland’s free research database.

Nothing in this message is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. If you have any questions about this issue or the Heartland Web site, you may contact Legislative Specialist John Nothdurft at 312/377-4000 or [email protected].