Rail Benefits to Washington
by Glen Squires, Washington Wheat Commission
WHEAT LIFE, November 2001
Eliminate railroads operating in Washington and you'll need 1- million more trucks to move the goods. That's the finding of a recent study by the Washinton State Department of Transportation to document the benefits and value of railroad freight transportation as acritical part of the transportaion system in the state of Washingon. In a hypothetical scenario, the 75-million tons of freight moved by rail were shifted to trucks. In doing so, the study found that without rail:
It is noted that the marginal pavement cost of a heavy truck traveling over interstate highways in Washington is approximately 18 cents per mile. Heavy trucks, however, only generate 14 cents in user fees for each mile of travel, leaving the state 4 cents per vehicle-mile short.
Other items of interest reveal that 65 percent of the tons moved are interstate movements.
Approximately 154,000 annual carloads and 15-million tons of freight are originated or terminated on breanch lines in Washington; the equivalent of nearly 600,000 truckloads. Without branch rail lines, minor arterials and collector highways are much more vulnerable to deterioration from increase truck usage, due to thinner pavements on such roads. Annualized road resurfacing costs if all branch lines were abandoned would be $21-million.
Clearly, maintaining a viable rail network is crucial for Washington and the wheat industry is strongly supportive of effortrs to do so. The most recent estimate is that over 35 percent of Washington's wheat is transported to market via rail.
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