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railroad infrastructure in North America

Thursday 20 August, 2009

I attended this luncheon presentation PAY THE FREIGHT: RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS IN CANADA AND U.S. hosted by the Canadian Consulate General, Metropolitan Planning Council, & Union League Club of Chicago.  Here are the presentations the panel made:  Combined Presentations

Mary Sue Barrett, President of the Metropolitan Planning Council opened with few statistics:

  • freight is increasing 350% by 2020
  • 500 trains travel on 2800 miles of track every day
  • Transportation creates $2B in economic output & 70,000 jobs
  • all on a 19th century system.

US Representative fromWisconsin Tom Petri didn’t make a presentation, so I’ll summarize what he said here.  The Midwest-Canadian relationship is crucial.  Wisconsin exporters hip out of Montreal.  Baltimore & New York want that business, but are not cost-competitive.  Canadian railroads are now North/South in addition to East/West.  Statistics from WI. company Schneider Logistics indicate transportation costs dropping from 16% to 8.8% of GDP in past years, but there have been no savings since 2004.  China now invests 9% of its GDP into transportation, while Europe invests 5%.  China will spend $730B on railroads, which exceeds the capital expenditures of the US.  We’ve lost momuentum-increasing the gas tax is not sustainable.  We need to continue borrowing from the Chinese to pay for rebuilding our infrastructure.

Q&A

  • grade crossings are still a challenge for efficiencies, with big impacts on local communities as people wait @ crossings
  • Germany imposes a road tax implemented by satellite to pay for infrastructure because Poles would not pay for gas when delivering to Germany
  • it’s a big problem to muster political will in Canada-the private sector is 10 years behind.
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