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Rail Facts

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How Freight Rail Supports the Economy

Maine’s economy depends on efficient, environmentally sound freight rail — now and in the future. Nationally, freight rail moves more freight than any other mode of transportation and keeps America moving forward. There are seven railroads in the State of Maine with more than 1,165 miles of track. In 2007, 90,700 carloads of freight were carried on Maine railroads, which handled more than 6,731,352 tons of freight generated by Maine’s economy.

America’s freight railroads are the world's most cost effective and the most productive. They deliver just about everything Americans need and use every day — shoes, cars, food and clothing — quickly, safely and affordably. Maine’s forest products industry relies on freight rail for a healthy bottom line and access to global trading partners.

Freight rail also provides a vital link for millions of American jobs — connecting farmers, miners and manufacturers across the country and the world. Since 1980, when Congress replaced an outdated regulatory system with smart, commonsense oversight, the railroads have become an American success story. Wise choices and sound investments mean Americans today are getting more of the things they need and use at affordable prices. There are more then 720 railroad jobs in Maine with an annual payroll of nearly $43 million dollars.

Freight railroads have invested more than $420 billion since 1980 to maintain and improve their tracks, bridges, tunnels, locomotives, freight cars, and other infrastructure and equipment. And that investment continues to pay off:

  • Average rail rates have dropped by more than half since 1981, meaning billions of dollars in savings for consumers every year.
  • Productivity has tripled. Some 43 percent of all intercity freight moves by rail, including 71 percent of the nation's coal and 35 percent of its grain.
  • According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, costs to American consumers would jump by almost $70 billion a year if all freight moved by rail were shifted to truck.

Freight railroads will be even more essential in the future. The U.S. Department of Transportation expects freight transportation demand to grow 92 percent from 2002 through 2035. Rail is the most sensible way to meet that demand.

At the same time, Americans are expecting cleaner, safer, healthier, and more efficient transportation solutions. That means rail too. A larger freight rail network means energy savings. It also means cleaner skies, less pollution and less road traffic. Highway gridlock today costs the nation an estimated $78 billion in wasted travel time (4.2 billion hours) and wasted fuel (2.9 billion gallons). A single train can take the load of 280 trucks off the road — equivalent to 1,100 cars.

The health of our economy rides heavily on the rails. Investing in railroads boosts the nation’s economy. According to U.S. Department of Commerce data, every dollar spent on investments in our freight railroads — tracks, equipment, locomotives, bridges — yields $3 in economic output. In addition, each $1 billion of rail investment creates 20,000 jobs.

Rail is the smart choice for America’s economy — now and in the future.

Passenger Rail Facts

In 2005, a study prepared for MaineDOT predicted that service improvements on the Downeaster passenger train from Boston to Portland and service extensions to additional Maine destinations would lead to increased ridership and the beginning of economic benefits for communities served by passenger rail. Three years later:

  • Downeaster ridership rose 32% in fiscal year 2006, 5% in 2007, and 26% in 2008. On the Rockland Branch, excursion rail from Brunswick to Rockland, ridership rose 26% from 2006 to 2007.
  • In Old Orchard Beach, the Downeaster has contributed to the development of 800 new residential housing units, while two hotels and a $22 million residential & retail complex have been constructed within two blocks of the train station.
  • In Saco, developers are working on a $110 million renovation of old mill property within walking distance of America's first "Green" rail station, which includes a wind turbine to generate power. This entire project is projected to generate more than 400 new jobs and contribute $1.5 million in new tax revenues annually.
  • In Brunswick, the first building of the Maine Street Station project has opened. It houses the waiting room for Amtrak and Maine Eastern Railroad passengers. This $30 million project will contain a hotel, retail, office and residential complex that are projected to create 200 jobs and $500,000 in annual tax revenues.

In addition to providing a transportation alternative for northern New England, the Downeaster has proven itself to be an economic engine for the entire region. Over the next 20 years, Downeaster-related projects in Maine are projected to generate $3.3 billion in new construction development, create more than 8,000 new jobs, and contribute $16.8 million in new tax revenues annually in Maine.

Looking to the future, a plan to expand Downeaster service to Brunswick, Maine, via Freeport is part of a 2009 stimulus application (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has applied for $35 million in federal funds to complete the project. The expansion, if funded, would contribute an additional $1 billion in new construction, add 2,400 new jobs in the next 20 years and contribute $17 million annually in tax revenues to Maine.

(Economic projections contributed by Trainriders Northeast.)



This page last updated on 11/19/09