Privatized Transportation Works

Dave Talley, superintendent of Norfolk Southern’s Lake Division, wrote a great op-ed in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

The freight rail network has been a bright spot in a troubled economy. That’s because freight railroads, unlike trucks, airlines or barges, have been using private capital to invest in the rail network and facilities in northeast Indiana and around the country.

A small caveat here. The railroads do use some federal money through FRA grants that seem to generally be dispersed through state DOT’s. If you look through these grants though, the dollar amounts are a fraction of the capital that the railroads put into their own infrastructure.

All the same, Dave’s point is important. These private companies, the freight railroads, have shown amazing resiliency in the midst of economic problems. They aren’t waiting around for a bailout.

Even through the recession, railroads such as Norfolk Southern steadfastly have stayed committed to providing safe, reliable, efficient and affordable service, employing people in well-paying jobs that support families and communities.

Safe, reliable, efficient, affordable. Can we say these same things about our public transportation and its infrastructure? Not always.

…since 1980, freight rail industry has invested $480 billion to maintain and modernize the nation’s rail network so taxpayers don’t have to.

Looking ahead, these investments are not slowing down. In 2011, freight railroads plan to spend a record $12 billion of their own money on capital expenditures – on things like upgrading tracks, new fuel-efficient locomotives and new intermodal facilities.

Yeah, the $1 million and $5 million grants listed on the federal grants site don’t really touch the figure the railroads are fronting on their own.