Title

ESTIMATION OF INVESTMENT IN TRACK AND STRUCTURES NEEDED TO HANDLE 129 844-KG (286,000-LB) RAILCARS ON SHORT-LINE RAILROADS

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

2001

Subject Area

infrastructure - track, planning - surveys, organisation - structures, mode - rail

Keywords

Upgrades (Railroads), Tracks, Short line railroads, Regional railroads, Railroad tracks, Railroad facilities, Railroad cars, Railroad bridges, Needs assessment, Market share, Maintenance and repair, Maintenance, Investments, Investment requirements, Elevated railroads, Cost estimating, Condition surveys, Axle loads

Abstract

Ownership of the U.S. rail industry is divided between eight Class I railroads (those with more than $258.5 million in annual revenue) and about 550 regional and short-line railroads. The eight large railroads own about 70% of the 273,700 track-km (170,000 track-mi) and account for about 90% of industry revenues. The remaining 30% of track-km belongs to the regional and short-line railroads, which must operate and maintain them with 10% of industry revenues. U.S. railroads function as an integrated network; freight originating on a short-line railroad can be delivered anywhere in the United States, Canada, or Mexico. Equipment is freely interchanged, so the small railroads must handle the same heavy cars as the Class I railroads even though maximum freight car weights have increased in recent years, with cars of 129,844 kg (286,000 lb) becoming common. Many of the smaller railroads own trackage that had been branchlines belonging to the larger companies, and track components and condition are often marginal or inadequate to handle the heavier loads. Yet, if short lines cannot handle heavier cars, they face a loss of revenue and ultimately business failure. ZETA-TECH conducted a survey of short-line and regional railroads to determine the quantities of track materials, bridge repairs, and replacements needed to handle heavier cars. Using standard railroad industry unit costs, ZETA-TECH estimated the cost of the work at $6.86 billion in 1999 dollars.