Rail Manufacturing Jobs are Crucial to the Infrastructure Debate
As Infrastructure Week 2018 begins, what once was a topic only policy wonks could love is now a national discussion. The Trump Administration has highlighted the critical importance of highways, railways, waterways and airways. Americans understand the importance of infrastructure to our nation’s economy and competitiveness; transportation, a key component of infrastructure, affects their daily lives.
Railroads are integral to the U.S. transportation system infrastructure, providing a competitive advantage to American shippers and consumers and a safe transportation option for passengers. Most discussions about railroads focus on the operators of freight and passenger rail services: Class I freight railroads, Amtrak, commuter, short line and regional railroads, and transit agencies.
What does not get as much attention are the hundreds of U.S. companies that manufacture the equipment and components – track, signaling systems, railcars, and much more – that support the nation’s rail infrastructure. These companies represent a significant source of hundreds of thousands of well-paying, skilled, private-sector jobs.
A new analysis of the size of the U.S. rail manufacturing and supply industry conducted by a partnership of six rail associations found 1,150 companies with headquarters, manufacturing, service, sales and other facilities in more than 2,800 locations in all 50 states.
These railway supply industry jobs encompass a range of skills, from basic manufacturing to analysis of ‘big data’ and the application of advanced technologies, to maximize the safety and reliability of the nation’s rail networks. These jobs, located in smaller, frequently rural communities as well as in our industrial heartland, are an important economic engine in their communities.
The fortunes of these companies and communities depend on a strong demand for freight and passenger rail services. Supporting the railway supply industry and the freight and passenger service that depends upon it through a balanced regulatory environment and a predictable, stable federal funding partnership will help the president fulfill his $1 trillion promise to build a 21st-century infrastructure system in America.
The OneRail Coalition is a diverse group of rail stakeholders who have come together to inform policymakers and citizens about the benefits of a strong freight and passenger rail system. Our members know that a robust rail manufacturing industry is critical to continued economic stability and growth.
Anne Canby, director of the OneRail Coalition in Washington, DC. is a former Secretary/Commissioner of the Delaware and New Jersey Departments of Transportation.