Freight Rail Supporters Discuss How Investments in Freight Rail Can Create Green Jobs in Virginia

Members of the labor, business and environmental communities gathered today in Roanoke to highlight a report from the BlueGreen Alliance and discuss how implementing smart policies to spur freight rail investment could benefit Virginia

December 7, 2010

Roanoke, VA – Investments in America’s freight rail system could create thousands of green jobs while improving our nation’s infrastructure and reducing carbon emissions and U.S. dependence on foreign oil, according to a report released by the BlueGreen Alliance and the Economic Policy Institute. Members of the labor, business and environmental communities gathered today at the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke to highlight the report and the benefits to the state of implementing smart policies to spur freight rail investment.

Full Speed Ahead: Creating Green Jobs Through Freight Rail Expansion shows that the expansion of freight rail in the U.S. can create approximately 7,800 green jobs for every $1 billion of capital invested and serves as a guide for policy makers on sustaining and expanding the domestic freight rail network. If this is expanded to include re-spending by freight rail and supporting industry employees, between 12,300 and 26,600 American jobs would be created or sustained per $1 billion invested.

“We’re here to show that good, green jobs can be created by investing and implementing smart policies to spur freight rail expansion,” said Jeff Collins, General Chairman, Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, United States District Council of Railroads. “There are millions of Americans that are still reeling from the effects of the economic collapse, and since June of last year Virginia has only managed to add only 1,500 jobs.  It’s obvious we need to do more to grow our economy and freight rail expansion is a great, green way to create the jobs we need.”

The European Union has planned for $300 billion in infrastructure improvements and China $200 billion over the next decade, but America is expected to invest only $150 billion over that same time span.

“To compete globally we have to get in the game,” said Curtis Sloan, Director of Policy, Go21. “Freight rail expansion will create good jobs in Virginia, but it will also ensure that America has the infrastructure to move goods from coast to coast in the most efficient way possible. By taking the common sense approaches advocated in Full Speed Ahead, like providing tax credits for rail capital investments targeted to support freight rail capacity expansion, we can both create the jobs and infrastructure we need.”

Full Speed Ahead also found that freight rail is much more efficient than other forms of transportation and continues to innovate to become more efficient. One example in the report shows how TTX Company has innovated and prevented more than 2.5 billion empty miles per year and saved more than 167 million gallons of fuel annually.

“Over the past few decades, the freight rail industry has nearly doubled the amount of goods shipped without increasing fuel consumption,” J.R. Tolbert, Assistant Director for Legislation and Development,Sierra Club. “Expanding freight rail will help us meet our goals of creating good jobs while reducing pollution and our dependence on oil.  It will decrease congestion on our highways, including I-81.”

Policy recommendations in the report for lawmakers include support for tax credits for rail capital investments, and “Buy American” provisions to ensure that the jobs created are not outsourced.