By There is no denying the need to transport goods and supplies across the Los Angeles region. How to transport those goods, in the best interest of California consumers, businesses and even the environment; is the question that needs to be answered. As the economy continues to struggle to rebound, it is in our greatest interest to take a serious look at one mode of transportation that can best accomplish our goals.
Although often stuck in the background, freight rail plays a vital role in the success of our everyday lives. Freight rail is responsible for hauling enough wheat to make more than 400 loaves of bread for every man, woman and child in the nation and enough lumber to build 1.1 million average size homes. When looking at the role freight rail plays in our lives, it quickly becomes apparent that it is a vital role.
Unfortunately, some in Congress have indicated they are open to making changes to the rail industry that would–although unintended–have dire consequences on how the freight rail industry operates in the Los Angeles region. Prior to the reasonable, balanced set of regulations the rail industry works under today, freight rail was stifled with over-bearing rules that nearly killed the industry. Tracks and bridges were literally falling apart, locomotives sat idle and collected rust, injury rates skyrocketed and the cost of shipping via rail grew faster than the rate of inflation.
All of that changed with the passage of the Staggers Act. The Staggers Act of 1980 led to the revitalization of the iron horse. Today, the freight rail industry is leading the way in green technology, pulling one ton of freight 436 miles on a single gallon of diesel, and rail has the ability to remove 280 long haul trucks from highways with one intermodal train.
Yet the future of the freight rails success is in jeopardy. In recent years, Congress has proposed legislation that would revert to the old way of doing business and much speculation exists that they will attempt to do so again in the 111th Congress. It is up to us to tell Congress we oppose any and all attempts to do so. Reverting to pre-Staggers conditions of over-regulation would be detrimental to consumers on every level. When rail companies are forced to work under heavily regulated conditions, prices are surely to rise and will most assuredly be passed onto consumers.
For nearly 30 years, the freight rail industry has been making great strides; with increased efficiency, lower costs, environmentally sound locomotives and they have done it behind the scenes. Freight rail delivers our newspapers, our computers, our televisions, our mobile phones, our food, our water, our cars and just about every consumer good we can think of. It is time for us to return the gesture and thank freight rail by asking Congress to leave the Staggers Act alone.
Shelley Bell is the Treasurer of Families First California. Families First California is an issue advocacy and public education organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for families in California and ensuring that the voices of those in need are heard throughout our federal, state and local entities.