Sunday, May 31, 2009



How Rail Can Relieve Congestion

Traffic congestion is significant and getting worse in urban areas throughout the United States. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) just reported that the amount of time the average commuter spends in traffic congestion has nearly tripled in just 20 years. This represents more than $63 billion in congestion costs and 5.7 million gallons of wasted fuel due to idling in traffic jams.

There is every reason to believe that traffic will continue to grow along with population and the economy, yet the nation can no longer add sufficient capacity to urban freeway and arterial street systems to accommodate traffic growth. This means that, as bad as traffic congestion is now, it is likely to get much worse.

Trucks perform a vital role in our economy, but their volume is increasing at an even faster rate than automobile travel. Trucks suffer as a result of overly-congested highways as much or more than anyone else. With truck traffic projected to rise nearly 80 percent by the year 2020, sufficient road space is simply not likely to be available to handle potential truck volume.

The Potential of Freight Rail: Our nation's freight railroads can reduce gridlock (for cars and trucks) by handling additional freight traffic that would otherwise move entirely on the highway. A single intermodal train can haul up to 280 truck trailers (equivalent to more than 1,100 automobiles in traffic); other types of trains can carry as much freight as 500 trucks (the equivalent of approximately 2,000 automobiles in traffic). This carrying capacity is an important potential resource in the battle against highway congestion. Indeed, many trucking firms have already entered into cooperative partnerships with freight railroads to transport their trailers over long distances on intermodal trains.

Scenarios: This report reviews the potential for reducing future traffic congestion by

moving more of the long, heavy trailers to intermodal freight trains that largely bypass busy urban streets and freeways.

If 25 percent of truck traffic were shipped instead by freight trains, by 2025 the following benefits could be achieved:

• The average person traveling during peak periods would save 44 hours per year (equal to more than to five 8-hour work days) as the reduced truck volume eased traffic congestion. In the most congested urban areas, annual savings could exceed 100 hours. Nationally, we would save 3.2 billion hours of delay.

• Fuel consumption would be reduced because of faster speeds and more fluid traffic flow on the less congested roadways. Diesel and gasoline fuel consumption in 2025 would be an estimated 17 billion gallons lower than it otherwise would be - equivalent to more than 250 gallons annually per motorist.

• The savings in travel time and fuel would yield significant economic benefits. A typical household would enjoy $620 per year in reduced congestion costs, equal to $44 billion overall, in urban areas nationwide.

• Air quality would improve thanks to an estimated 900,000 fewer tons of air pollution, including lower levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide (NOx).

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