Thursday, March 29, 2012

2035 Projection Railroad and Highway Capacity

For someone who has watched the construction of the Interstate Highway system during his lifetime, the ton mile work being done by the Interstate Highway system is monumental. But, the traffic density is such that in certain places secondary roads create a better sense of security. Just about the only time in the week that traffic density allows a driving experience similar to the 1960's or 1970's is limited to Sunday morning.

Here is the traffic density on the highway system based upon 2002 data. Green represents uncongested conditions. Yellow represents congested. Red represents highly congested. A high volume section of the Interstate system is 10,000 trucks with six or more tires per day. Here is another way of describing the colors. Green means that the truck traffic moves at or above the posted speed. Yellow means that the truck traffic moves near the posted speed. Red means that truck traffic moves below the posted speed.

What happens in 2035?

 In 2035 the Interstate Highway system is overwhelmed.  

Take a look at the "National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study" prepared in 2007 for the Association of American Railroad by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. (See: It is predicted that without additional capacity 30 per cent of national rail miles will be operating above capacity by 2035. But, the study is very conservative assuming roughly  the same proportion of ton miles being performed by the railroad mode and the highway mode. What is the definition for being "above capacity?" It is a rail line with unstable flows of freight train operations with service breakdowns. (See page 4-8)

The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line,  is projected to have a growth in daily freight trains in the range of 30 to 80 by 2035 ( See page 5-3). Without capacity improvements the line will be at a service level of being "near capacity" in yellow. That means heavy train flow with moderate capacity to accommodate maintenance and recover from incidents. In other words, very little would be needed for an operational quagmire. Worse capacity problems will be west of Cleveland.

The cost to create highway capacity far exceeds the cost to increase railroad capacity.

The comparable line haul cost performed per ton mile by railroad is substantially less than that performed by the highway mode.

The opportunity to create a non oil based, non natural gas based transportation system exists by electrifying the railroad system.

Electrifying the railroad system together with physical plant track addition would create the infrastructure capacity the country needs.

Paying to electrify the railroad system through a slight import tariff lasting no more than 7 years in accordance with World Trade Organization rules will slash the trade deficit.

1 comment:

  1. My suggestion on the Rapid Freight Rail is a 2 cent per gallon tariff on imported petroleum. Rather than devote the revenues directly to the capital funding, they would be an interest subsidy on the capital cost, with the capital cost paid back over time with access fees to the track and user fees for the electric power supply.

    Electric corridors of usable length might be Harrisburg to Knoxville and Harrisburg to Terre Haute, IN.

    Regarding Rapid Freight Rail consists, one approach is the German CargoSprinter concept, like the Windhoff Railrunner. A Railrunner consist is a Railrunner on each end and three container flatcars in between, but its seems that one could also develop a version for a string of RoadRailers, with the same ability to couple up to nine Railrunners together as a single train and then split them up into individual Railrunner in the same speed as the multimodal container consists.

    The idea is a truck on rail, which suggests that with the development of hybrid electric/diesel truck drive trains, a hybrid electric / diesel-electric that can work off of diesel or overhead catenary.