A new era for railroads as companies expand business postandcourier.com power quiz questions


The upgrade is part of a railroad renaissance under way across much of the U.S. For the first time in nearly a century, railroads are making large investments in their networks – adding sets of tracks, straightening curves that force engines to slow and expanding tunnels for bigger trains. Their campaign is altering the corridors of American commerce, more so than any other development since interstate highways spread to the interior.

The buildout comes as the industry transitions away from its chief role in recent decades of hauling electricity wikipedia in hindi coal, timber and other raw materials in manufacturing regions. Now, increasingly, railroads are moving finished consumer goods, often made in Asia, from ports to major cities. Their new higher-volume routes, called corridors, often serve the South, where the rail system is less developed and the population is rising.

Railroad operators are pressing for advantage over their main competitor, long-haul trucking, which has struggled with electricity physics definition rising fuel prices, driver shortages and highway congestion. Railroads say a load can be moved by rail using about a third as much fuel as it takes to haul it by truck. And rail transport is becoming more efficient still, they say, as operators speed their lines and logistics companies build huge warehouse areas along routes.

Demand for rail service increased sharply when the U.S. economy and Asian imports surged starting in 2003. Tight capacity on major routes enabled railroads to raise prices. The growth in freight volume has slowed along with economic growth, but shippers say they’re still planning to increase their use of rail transport because of the cost.

Trucking accounted for 82 percent of the U.S.’s truck-and-rail intercity-freight spending in 2004, up from 78 percent in 1990, according to Eno Transportation Foundation, a research organization in Washington, D.C. But trucking companies, notably industry giant J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell, Ark., are using railroads for the long-haul part of some trips because it’s cheaper. Some rail promoters believe that as a result of their investments, they could cut into the business of the two million long-haul freight trucks in the U.S., which gas jewelry account for 350 million shipments a year.

For the first time in years, the industry is attracting interest among big-name investors. Last spring, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., disclosed an 11 percent stake in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., the second-largest U.S. railroad by revenue. Berkshire has since raised the stake to more than 18 percent. In a move recalling rail boardroom battles of the past, Children’s Investment Fund Management LLP, a London hedge fund, and other shareholders have put up a slate of directors for a coming annual meeting of the nation’s No. 3 railroad, CSX Corp. (Union Pacific Corp. is the largest U.S. railroad in revenue terms; Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern are fourth and fifth, respectively.)

It’s been a century since railroads embarked on a similar spate of capital investment youtube electricity. Between 1900 and World War I, they launched a huge rebuilding program across the U.S. midsection to handle freight and passenger trains. Traffic was booming as the economy roared back from a financial panic in the 1890s. Railroads added second, third and fourth sets of tracks along main routes, built tunnels and bridges and installed stronger locomotives.

Burlington Northern was the first to pursue the strategy of building a high-capacity corridor to link ports with population centers needing consumer goods, rather than linking industrial centers. In the 1990s, it set out to complete a second set of tracks on its Chicago-Los Angeles Transcon line. It came right out of the ‘Field of Dreams’: Build it and they will come, says Rob Krebs, a retired Burlington CEO.

It is upgrading its Sunset Route, from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, with a second set of tracks. It’s planning to build new freight yards and a fueling station along the way gas bloating nausea. When the $2 billion project is finished in 2010, Union Pacific will be able to roughly double the number of freight cars crossing the Sunset each day to more than 9,000 from about 5,000 currently.

Railroads are generating development in the same way they spawned towns and industrial sites over a century ago. Warehouse complexes are popping up next to new rail yards designed to load and unload trains carrying containerized goods. Major distribution operations have opened or are planned in places like Elwood, Ill., Kansas City, Mo., and Columbus, Ohio.

The social consequences are evident in developments like AllianceTexas. In the late 1980s, Hillwood Development Co., founded by Ross Perot Jr., son of the former presidential candidate, built a cargo airport outside Fort Worth, thinking that would be the best way to attract companies to 17,000 acres of land north of the city. As an afterthought, the company says, it made room for a rail yard.

A decade later, it’s the rail yard that has attracted huge warehouses, for companies such as J.C. Penney Co. and Bridgestone Corp. These and others get container loads of jeans, electronics, tires and such from Southern California ports. I never would have thought having a rail hub in the middle of our development would have attracted so much electricity storage costs interest, says Thomas Harris, a Hillwood senior vice president.

Railroads have found friends among environmentalists, who see moving freight by train rather than truck as a way to reduce fuel burning and emissions. Method Products Inc., a San Francisco maker of nontoxic home and personal-care products, says it plans to use rail for 50 percent of its shipments this year, up from 33 percent in 2007. We view rail as a solution to lower our greenhouse-gas emissions, says Jason Bowman, the firm’s global logistics manager.

Norfolk Southern is seeking public funding to accelerate rail-corridor projects, arguing that they provide a public benefit by limiting fuel use, traffic congestion and air pollution. The idea is gaining backers. Virginia created a rail-enhancement fund in 2005 from car-rental fees and is spending $40 million to improve a Norfolk Southern freight line gas 87 in the state. The railroad industry is urging Congress to pass a railroad investment tax credit to fund rail improvements.

Many old lines need work. Norfolk Southern’s most direct route to the Midwest from the docks of Norfolk, Va., has tunnels high enough for coal trains. But they are too low for double-stack trains, which haul shipping containers one above the other. Norfolk Southern has begun a three-year, $260 million project to raise the height of 28 tunnels on the route, which it has renamed the Heartland Corridor.

Trucks make four million to 4.5 million trips annually along I-81 in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Norfolk Southern envisions a route with enough speed and capacity to displace about a million truck trips a year. It is seeking funding for 7 gas station most of the $2 billion project from the U.S. government and states along the corridor.

Work continues on the Meridian Speedway between Meridian and Shreveport. Kansas City Southern bought the line in 1994 as a shortcut for freight moving between Los Angeles and Atlanta, bypassing crowded gateways in Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans. The railroad began to improve the line, at one point easing a hilly curve near the river town of Vicksburg, Miss., that for years hampered Mr. Keith and other engineers when trains stalled there.

Union Pacific uses the Speedway for a leg of a longer run that begins near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. Improvements on the line have enabled Union Pacific to launch a new train packed with Asian goods that can cross the Southern U.S. in 72 hours, down from the 120-hour service it offered in past years. Such numbers translate into big savings for railroads, which figure that each mile per hour of speed they can add systemwide translates zyklon b gas canister for sale into fewer cars, locomotives and crew members.