Intermodal network required for 21st century economic vitality, says ITI

According to ITI chairman Gil Carmichael, US railroads are poised to play a dominant role in the global transportation infrastructure.

Addressing more than 200 members of the Railway Industrial Clearance Association, Carmichael, founding chairman of the board of directors of the Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI) at the University of Denver and a former Federal Railroad Administrator, said that by soliciting industry input, the FRA has taken a significant step toward creating a new National Rail Plan.  

However, Carmichael added that the FRA could go further in addressing the needs of today’s globalised intermodal transportation infrastructure. "Ten years into the 21st century, we finally realise the US must produce a new, holistic, sustainable, ethical, and environmentally friendly intermodal transportation system. This system would use alternative, reusable fuel sources to create an efficient ‘rail-based‘ freight and passenger transportation network," he said.

Carmichael noted that the Interstate Highway System of the previous century, created during the era of ‘cheap fuel‘ and serving primarily the highways and airlines, has served the US well. But the population has doubled in fifty years and could reach 400 million people by 2050, creating even greater mobility problems.

"We already have a deteriorating, badly stressed, and congested transportation infrastructure that cannot meet our international consumer or shipper demands," he said, adding that today’s container-based global economy requires an interconnected, intermodal transportation system that uses the strengths and efficiencies of all modes of transportation, as opposed to a singular mode approach.

Carmichael also said that FRA’s 21st century National Rail Plan must also include Canada and Mexico.

"North America has a 240,000-mile rail ROW network that governments and private railroads have invested in for 150 years," he commented. "In most cases, this rail network connects all of the major centre cities and ports in North America [but not our major airports]. After years of downsizing and single tracking, most North American railroads are probably operating at only 20-25% of true rights-of-way capacity. This broad, huge ROW system is already in place and is paid for! Why not better utilise it? We could easily expand FRA’s National Rail Plan into a North American Rail Plan. It will be expensive; but can we afford NOT to do it? Many nations have already moved past North America with intermodal and high-speed passenger rail programs."  

He suggested that the solution to meeting this century’s transportation/economic challenges lies in building a North American Interstate 2.0, a seamless, holistic, high-speed, passenger and freight rail transportation system. This would require a working partnership between the federal and state agencies of the US, Canada and Mexico, and the private sector – especially the freight railroads and the passenger rail segments. This large public works project would provide a major asset for a more liveable and sustainable continental transportation system with alternative, reusable fuel sources and long-term jobs for at least four decades of this century.

Carmichael said that by double- or triple-tracking at least 30,000 miles of the railroad’s main lines, with 100% grade separations, and using new technologies such as GPS, Positive Train Control (PTC) and digital sensors, an ethical and sustainable rail-based, North American transportation system will transform the continent’s infrastructure landscape in the next few decades. He strongly recommends that the US Congress approves two new intermodal trust funds to replace the expiring Interstate Highway Trust Fund to pay for this century’s new infrastructure.

"With proper investments and new technologies, this holistic vision of a North American Rail Network will seamlessly connect all modes of transportation and provide a very safe, sustainable, and energy-efficient intermodal infrastructure that reliably moves people from car/transit to train to plane and freight from ship to train to truck," summarised Carmichael. "This rail-based Interstate 2.0 will be the new transportation paradigm for the 21st century."

Quelle: eyefortransport

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