Originally Posted by westsider
Though I'm all for shipping by rail, besides the problem of limited and disappearing capacity, the main setback to shipping all or most freight by train is that most of its destinations are not serviced by train track. If the nearest train depot is not across the street, or the delivery point is not on a rail spur, than how is the cargo going to get where its needed? By truck. So unless you are advocating running a rail spur on non-existent ROW to every industrial or distribution building, construction area, grocery store, and every one of the millions of locations that receive deliverys on a regular basis that idea is just never going to work. I don't know how Switzerland supposedly does it, but I've been to neighboring Austria and saw no less trucks on the highways then here. For cross country movement of freight, there is nothing better than rail, but for getting it on and off the train and for local deliverys there will never be an alternative to trucks.
Well, you still need railroads to move that freight long distances. Most of our food and goods we buy aren't even made or grown in this country, so they travel a long distance. Trucks are fine for local delivery, but for longer distances, rail is more efficient and less expensive. Oh, and its less environmentally damaging, too!
However, there are positive signs - for instance, the railroads are spending over $10 billion this year in upgrading their infrastructure. link
This year alone, the railroads will spend nearly $10 billion to add track, build switchyards and terminals, and open tunnels to handle the coming flood of traffic. Freight rail tonnage will rise nearly 90 percent by 2035, according to the Transportation Department.
The industry estimates it will take $148 billion in expansion to carry the amount of traffic anticipated by 2035. Of that, the railroad companies will contribute $96 billion, said the industry's trade group. The rest would have to come from the federal government and the states.
Europe - especially Switzerland - offers a good example. As far as Switzerland's freight
system - AlpTransit
They are investing in huge tunnels
so trains can move underneath the Alps much faster than can trucks or other transport routes.
However, Europe has a much different freight rail system, which is much faster than the US's low-speed bulky mile-long freight rains. They can deliver smaller trains to more depots, which could, thanks to containerized freight, be fed by trucks - which negates the need for a railroad spur into each factory.
However, if we were smart, we would do that anyways. Instead, we are, as usual, only building part of the infrastructure thats needed. Ie, no MAX, transit, streets, parks, or schools in new UGB expansions... unpaved streets in SW/SE Portland... etc.
Just building a huge loop freeway around Portland would be a waste of money, because it would take longer to traverse it (during those few hours each day that are actually affected by peak travel in the rush hours) than it would be to sit in traffic. And it would be too expensive to build a truck freight tunnel underneath the city, which would require enormous ventilation systems and require constant repaving. A freight tunnel under the city would be far easier to maintain, and could be electrified - and offer high speed freight and rail service which could bypass Portland.
I would really like to see a % of freight traveling through the region to see how much is actually just passing through - I bet the numbers aren't all that high.