Atlanta is one of America’s fastest growing cities with its population slated to reach 8.6 million by 2050 (up from about 4.6 million currently). This growth has many implications for the region, especially our transportation networks. More people mean more congestion and more roadway deterioration.

It’s in this context that I write to highlight our region’s freight railroads, like Norfolk Southern and CSX, which play an often unseen but key role in getting Georgia goods made and to market.

In contrast to public infrastructure, freight railroads like CSX and NS are privately owned and built by private dollars. So, while current highway infrastructure funding formulas effectively subsidize heavy truck operations, freight railroads pay their own way at little cost to taxpayers. This in addition to rail’s other advantages, for example traffic and pollution reduction.

Freight rail is also an economic powerhouse for Atlanta and the state. The Georgia Ports Authority reports a 30% increase in rail intermodal at the Port of Savannah in 2019. A new mega rail terminal in Mason is expected to double the port’s on-dock rail capacity next year.

While railroads are a success story for the region, current re-regulation proposals at the federal level could undermine this picture. Georgia’s lawmakers in Congress should oppose such shortsighted proposals, including rate caps and compelling railroads to turn over their traffic to competitors. Today’s rail regulations already work, allowing rail companies to earn what it takes to maintain world-class infrastructure. Efficient railways support healthy Georgia businesses and cut costs for consumers.

As Atlanta plans for a bright economic future, transportation leaders at all levels of government should recognize the advantages of rail, opposing policies that would contract and undermine the rail network when we need it the most.

Brett Harrell represents the 106th District in the Georgia House of Representatives. He resides in Snellville.

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(1) comment


Brett is correct. If anything the government should be requiring trucking companies to pay their fair share of the cost of building and maintaining roads for the needs of the trucking industry, The heavy weights of trucks creates a need for thicker road surfaces raising construction costs and because of the heavy weights of the trucks the wear and tear to the roads is much higher than that caused by cars raising maintenance costs. Trucking is clearly subsidized as many studies have shown and Brett states in his editorial. Freight by rail has many advantages over freight by truck for long hauls. Rail is more energy efficient and less polluting for both freight and passenger movement.

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