Railroads are not the dominant transportation mode they once were, but they still play a large role in freight movement and are the only practical means of transport for a variety of commodities. Railroads also comprise a principal component of a community's economic development infrastructure as rail service still ranks as a prime site selection criterion for many industries. As U.S. railroads continue to restructure and reduce the size of their physical plant in an effort to reduce costs, light-density branch lines will continue to be targets for abandonment. Effects of rail line abandonment on both public and private costs in a region are evaluated. Drags on economic development in the region caused by this structural change are identified. Specifically, methodology and results of a statewide examination of the rail freight system in the state of Washington are discussed. This procedure, developed for use by the Washington Rail Development Commission, details the revenue and costs incurred for the existing Class I railroads on each branch line segment in the state. Then, for those segments where the railroads experience a revenue deficiency an analysis is presented on the public impacts of increased transportation costs to shippers and damage to roads of any decision to abandon a line segment. The need and rationale of public acquisition to retain local rail service for economic development purposes are discussed. Low traffic levels and poor track conditions typical of light-density rail lines are not going to attract for-profit railroad operators, and thus many locales may have no choice but to acquire the lines to retain them. Examples of public ownerships in Washington State are provided.

Media Info

  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: p. 241-251
  • Monograph Title: Transportation and Economic Development, 1990, proceedings of a conference, November 5-8, 1989, Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00603660
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 0309050243
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Feb 28 1991 12:00AM