Rail investments can boost local economies

Rail investments can boost local economies

Infrastructure is at the forefront of policy discussions these days. The White House recently released its plan for a massive infrastructure program. Governors and state legislatures across the country are having their annual debates over how to stretch limited dollars and how to pay for much-needed infrastructure programs. As we start to see the signs of warmer weather, we also start to see more road signs and barrels as we approach peak construction season.

Today, highlighting Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, representatives from railroads of all sizes will be joined in Washington, D.C. by the companies that supply railroads and other stakeholders. This includes those providing parts and technology for trains, those that help maintain railroad rights-of-way, rail labor unions and public officials who understand the importance of the freight rail network to companies and communities nationwide.


This is important because It is the backbone of the economy, the workhorse of global trade and the connector between companies and communities large and small across the country.


In South Dakota, for example, we consume only a modest amount of the grain produced here so the majority must be sold to out-of-state buyers. And we depend almost entirely on railroads to move those agricultural products to outside markets. We are fortunate to have Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThrough a national commitment to youth sports, we can break the obesity cycle Florida politics play into disaster relief debate GOP chairman: FEMA has enough money for Hurricane Michael MORE, a former state railroad commissioner who understands the critical role railroads play in South Dakota and in the economy, chairing the Senate Commerce Committee. He and I have worked together on rail issues in our state and he knows railroading as well as any public official.

Here in South Dakota, we work with our railroad partners to encourage the economic development opportunities that stem from the interconnected, 140,000-plus-mile freight rail network. Recently, we worked with BNSF Railway to have Foundation Park in Sioux Falls certified as a rail-served industrial park as part of BNSF Railway’s Site Certification program. This helps developers increase their speed to market and reduce upfront risk by ensuring the site is ready for rapid acquisition and development. Each of the nation’s largest freight railroads have such programs.

We have seen the results of participating in public-private partnerships to upgrade tracks for smaller railroads. These upgrades prompted two new grain facilities to be constructed along the upgraded tracks.

Rail investments bring big results and often lead to additional projects that directly reduce shipping costs and improve the bottom line for the men and women who drive the economy. They connect farmers, miners, manufacturers and companies of all stripes to markets across the nation and the globe via the interconnected intermodal network of trains, planes, trucks and barges. 

The nation’s largest railroads are privately funded, putting 40 percent of every revenue dollar back into their network, nearly $660 billion since 1980. Every ton of freight moving by rail reduces the burden on other modes, eases the dependence on taxpayer dollars, conserves fuel by moving more goods with less fuel burned and, consequently, emits fewer greenhouse gases than moving freight by other modes.

In short, leaders of all political stripes and at all levels of government should appreciate the role that freight railroads play in our country and I urge members of Congress to give the Railroad Day delegation a favorable reception.

Dennis Daugaard is the governor of South Dakota.