More than 160 meetings with members of Congress were held on March 16th and 17th when about 45 supporters of GoRail took their message of a strong, improved freight rail system to Capitol Hill.
GoRail supporters came to Washington, D.C. for this intense two days on the Hill to ask lawmakers to weigh-in with the Surface Transportation Board in support of preserving reasonable railroad regulation. Our supporters also asked lawmakers to push back against those seeking to have Congress increase truck weights and lengths. GoRails message: Moving more heavy freight by rail is in the nations interest, and this has been recognized by business leaders, Congressional leaders and the Obama Administration.
Increasing truck weights or imposing onerous new regulations on rail would only drive more heavy freight back onto highways, and make driving more hazardous while also reducing rail revenues and investment at just the time we need rail to do even more to create jobs and new economic opportunity.
Legislation in the House (H.R. 763) and in the Senate (S. 747) would increase truck weights to 97,000 pounds. In addition to raising serious safety concerns, heavier trucks would be heavily subsidized because they would cause greater damage to infrastructure, but half of these costs would be covered by other taxpayers. There are also concerns that the STB could take action to undermine the regulatory structure of railroads, resulting in disinvestment and a shift of freight from rail to highways.
Joining GoRail in this effort were mayors, state legislators, railroad supply companies, other business owners, and law enforcement officials, among others. Our dual message was simple: Todays commonsense rail regulations work and have been a key to the freight rail renaissance, billions of dollars of private investment in rail infrastructure and the preservation and creation of thousands of jobs nationwide. On the other hand, bigger-truck legislation would be costly to taxpayers, escalate the destruction of our bridges and roads, lead to millions more trucks on highways, create more dangerous roads, hurt the environment, and divert freight from railroads and barges.
The heavy truck bill may come up for a vote within the next 30 to 60 days in the House Transportation Committee, and if passed will have a dramatic impact on our rail network diverting large amounts of freight from rail to highway according to a recent study.
That study, completed last October, concluded that raising truck weights to 97,000 pounds could reduce overall rail traffic by 19 percent and result in an additional 8 million truck trips on our roads and over our already compromised bridges. Most of our nations bridges were built more than 40 years ago and 69,223 bridges in the U.S., or 11.5 percent, are classified as structurally deficient meaning they need significant repairs or to be replaced.
For perspective on the critical state of our bridges, take a look at this web site and explore your states bridges: http://t4america.org/resources/bridges/.
Please call your Representative and your Senators and let them know that undermining todays reasonable rail regulation or allowing bigger trucks is a bad idea for your community. Visit www.gorail.org or contact Pamela Mann at 571-480-5481 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can help.
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