OneRail Coalition Panel Highlights Freight Rail's Public-Private Partnerships at NASTO Meeting

Release Date: 
Jul 11 2017

July 11, 2017 - Members of the OneRail coalition, along with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), made compelling points regarding freight in the Northeast at a plenary session at the 2017 NASTO meeting in Philadelphia on July 11."

Joe Bryan, Principal Consultant, WSP, moderated the panel and provided a framework for the presentations and discussion.  Key points from Bryan’s presentation included highlighting the vast amount of freight that moves within the NASTO region, the low amount of rail freight as a percent of total freight moved, and the need for the railroads to replace their coal business.  Bryan indicated that intermodal freight is a key source for new rail business, including shorter hauls which almost # of shippers expect to use.  Intermodal is viewed as a key element in the growth of e-commerce, as e-commerce grows, distribution centers will need to be closer to markets to satisfy the demand for same or next day delivery."

Anne Strauss-Wieder, Director of Freight Planning, NJTPA, pointed out the intensity of freight in the Northern New Jersey region, the history of freight innovation and collaboration, and the challenges of planning in a rapidly changing supply chain environment.$ Key areas of focus were the arrival of ultra container ships, the changing last mile of retail, and new technologies. All of which a%ect modal use and investment."

Don Itzkoff, Executive Counsel, Government A%airs & Policy, GE Transportation, highlighted the transforming impact of GE's "digital thread" on manufacturing, including locomotive production, and optimizing asset performance and operations for customer railroads. These and other new digital and data analytic processes are contributing to a smarter, more e&cient ecosystem for freight."

Darrell Wilson, AVP, Public Private Partnerships, Norfolk Southern RR, highlighted the scope of private investment in the rail network to ensure continued safety and improved e&ciency.  He further pointed to the growth of Intermodal at facilities such as the Rutherford yard in Harrisburg in partnership with Pennsylvania DOT and the US DOT as well as the need for network redundancy to maintain rail service."

Jerry Vest, SVP, Government & Industry A%airs, Genesee & Wyoming RailRoad Services, Inc., pointed out the critical role that short lines play to support markets in the NE.  This is especially the case in areas where the Class 1 railroads do not serve and short line railroads provide the connection to the American rail network and global markets.  He spoke of the G&W commitment to the NASTO service region, as demonstrated in its recent acquisition of  the Providence & Worcester Railroad."

In summary, the panel highlighted the transformations taking place in markets for and movement of freight.  These include the changing nature of freight, the severe reduction in coal, and the rise of e-commerce, the shorter distances of the haul,  and the impacts of digitization across the entire freight sector.  All of these present both challenges and opportunities for both the state transportation departments, planning organizations as well as the private freight sector.