"Full Speed Ahead: Creating Green Jobs Through Freight Rail Expansion," was a joint report from the BlueGreen Alliance and the Economic Policy Institute, released in 2010. The Association of American Railroads added their support to this report that found for every $1 billion of capital investment in freight rail, approximately 7,800 green jobs are created across the U.S. economy. Other benefits include reducing carbon emissions and cutting our nation's dependence on foreign oil.
Our region is positioned to benefit from this renewed investment in railroad freight and passenger transit, as a hub to supply fuel, equipment and maintenance services for the railroads. We have both CSX and Norfolk Southern Class-1 railroads connecting our cities, with CSX's Eastern Gateway and Norfolk Southern's Heartland projects improving their track networks to accommodate double-stack shipping containers to reduce fuel costs and traffic congestion.
Shipping a ton of freight almost 500 miles on a gallon of fuel, railroads are the most cost-effective inland transportation system on the market. In the 1990s I was able to save $300 to $400 per 48 x 102 trailer load using intermodal shipping containers to supply my customers in New York, shipping from Tupelo, Miss., through the Memphis, Tenn., intermodal rail terminal. Diesel fuel retailed for about 75 cents per gallon back then, so intermodal cost savings have multiplied with diesel fuel rising to more than $4 per gallon.
Railroads run on electrical motors, powered by generators run by diesel engines. Our region can supply the fuel they need. Soybeans can be seen growing in fields throughout our region, and could supply a local soybean oil biodiesel production facility. Diesel fuel can also be produced locally from gasified Appalachian coal, waste plastics, and algae. The Utica shale under Northeast Ohio is also expected to produce significant quantities of oil, providing even more locally-produced diesel fuel.
Local manufacturers and distribution centers should benefit from these rail system improvements by lowering their freight costs and providing better access to global markets. Railroads transport shipping containers to and from ocean ports as well as destinations on our continent. Many of our local facilities have direct access to short line service by Ohio Central Rail and the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation.
Passenger rail service for business development in our Cleve-Burgh Tech-Belt, region would link the universities and manufacturing centers in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. All Aboard Ohio! has been working with the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber and a local network of railroad advocates. The objective is to link the majority of the USA population, using the existing Mid-West and East Coast passenger rail networks, using existing freight railroad tracks. We are located in the center of this railroad network.
We have been calling this plan CYP for Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh, but the C in CYP may actually be Chicago. In the research discussed at a recent regional network meeting in Youngstown, the demand for the Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh route is surpassed by the Chicago-to-Pittsburgh route, traveling through Cleveland and Youngstown.
Ohio is the key to this entire effort, the "gap in the map,'' between the Midwest and East Coast. Our region is in a position to play a vital role in making this a reality, and realizing what the rest of the world seems to already knows, that passenger rail service is a viable, energy-efficient transportation mode for the 21st Century.
Pirko is a Weathersfield resident.