Deputy Secretary John Porcari
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Railroad Day Annual Legislative Dinner
March 14, 2013
Hello everyone. It’s great to be here today, and I’d like to thank Richard Timmons [President, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association] and Ed Hamberger [CEO, Association of American Railroads] for having me.
In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama laid out his plan to make America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing.
Improving and upgrading our infrastructure is central to this plan.
As we work to invest in the infrastructure that businesses need to compete, improving the way we move goods and people will be at the forefront of everything we do.
Freight movement is the lifeblood of the American economy.
Employers and companies count on a modern, multi-modal transportation system to move their goods to consumers every day.
In fact, about 48 million tons of refrigerators, televisions, and other goods worth $46 billion are transported across America each day.
America will be home to more than 100 million additional people by 2050.
As a result of this growth, our freight network will need to haul more than 4 billion more tons of freight per year than it currently does.
That means our freight system – which is already the strongest in the world – will need to become even stronger.
Rail has always played a crucial role in this national multimodal freight network – and it will only play a larger role in the decades to come.
In order to meet this future demand, we need to support our national rail network.
Your industry is doing its part.
Just last month, AAR [Association of American Railroads] announced that the major freight railroads plan to invest more than $24 billion in 2013 to build, maintain, and upgrade rail infrastructure around the country.
This is a tremendous commitment – and DOT is dedicated to enhancing your efforts.
We’ve taken the lead on improving our national freight network as a whole – because we know that in order to compete in a global economy, you need to get goods from ship to train to truck quickly and efficiently.
This summer, DOT created a Freight Policy Council to help us develop a national plan for improving freight movement and meet President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.
And we’re working to propose measures to track our progress as a nation.
This will tell us know how our transportation systems are performing and help guide where we make future investments.
As we work to improve freight movement, we are going to need partners.
Last week, we announced the establishment of the National Freight Advisory Committee.
We are accepting nominations for committee members from now until March 21st, and I encourage you to nominate yourself or other experts in your field to serve.
We want representatives from across the transportation spectrum to help us improve the way we move freight, and I look forward to seeing your nominations.
We’ve also made significant investments in freight rail over the last four years.
Through DOT’s popular TIGER program, we’ve awarded more than $650 million to projects that strengthen freight rail infrastructure, reduce freight bottlenecks, and alleviate congestion issues.
In fact, Norfolk Southern Railway’s Crescent Corridor intermodal project received the single largest TIGER grant of $105 million to build two new intermodal facilities and significantly increase freight capacity from the Southeast through the Mid-Atlantic region.
CSX’s National Gateway project received a $98 million TIGER grant to make improvements that will allow trains to carry double-stacked containers between Ohio and Pennsylvania, boosting freight capacity and making the corridor more attractive to major East Coast shippers.
And across all four rounds of TIGER, we’ve invested $186 million in 17 projects that primarily benefit short line and regional railroads.
This includes ten projects that make state of good repair improvements and expand short line capabilities in rural and urban areas, as well as seven projects that improve short line access to ports and waterways.
Our investments don’t end with TIGER.
With many of our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program projects, we’ve worked with states and freight railroads to ensure that our entire rail network can function at a high level of performance.
The completed Vermonter project will not only cut travel time by a half hour for Amtrak passengers – it’s making vital capital improvements for the New England Central Railroad’s main line, too.
In Chicago, the Englewood Flyover project – which got started with an agreement between Illinois, Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern Railway – will build a bridge to separate traffic along two railroads.
And while the project lays the groundwork for an additional passenger rail track to the east and south, it will also reduce delays for freight.
That’s a win-win for both passenger and freight rail.
One thing is clear: investments in freight rail aren’t just critical to of the strength of our national transportation system.
They’re critical to the strength of our national economy.
DOT is proud to call you our partners.
And we’re committed to working with you to ensure America’s rail network continues to deliver.