•Rebuilding of infrastructure to US (and possible Canada and Mexico) with most efficient means of transportation.
•Substantial reduction in fuel consumption, import and CO2
emissions, especially if all Class 1 Railroads in North America are electrified [3
•Higher speed freight trains running upwards to 120 mph and establishment of a useable national (or international if Canada and Mexico are included) passenger rail system. Also, increased capacity as much as 15% due to electric over diesel.
•Reduction in Truck traffic/maintenance costs on Interstate Highways as rail would be more competitive with Trucking Industry with possible exception of cities where truck traffic delivery would increase until such time as industries are relocated back along railway lines or Industry tracks extended. One intermodal train typically holds 280 trucks. Trains would also become competitive to 120 miles instead of the present 500 miles with trucking.
•Substantial boost in the economy with higher paying manufacturing and construction jobs, not only with rail construction for increased capacity and alignment, but highway overpasses as well, reduction of at grade crossings, now adding saved lives to the equation. It would also require redesign of freight cars and locomotives (dual fuel locomotives to start) as well as they are not presently designed for higher speeds [4
•Substantial reduction in transportation fuel cost after electrification, reaching the 60% range [5
•Regeneration of electricity as locomotives use dynamic breaking (generates electricity when slowing with engine) that can be sent back to the grid, by as much as 20% [6
]. This now generates heat.
•Also, environmental benefits due to refueling facilities could be eliminated or reduced from typical 1 million gallon tank facility.
•Benefit in time to Electric Transmission Companies as a ready-made transmission corridor is available for wind/solar sites to major/minor population areas, and large user new customers.
•Partial reduction in electrification cost to Railroads as they could use portions of transmission towers for electrification. Possible mergers or purchases between large utility companies and railroads because of mutual benefits to each.
•It has been estimated that electrification of a select 35,000 miles of main line US Railroads will reduce fuel imports by 20%, carbon emissions by 40% and an increase of the Gross Domestic Product of the US by 13% per annum. Now consider these numbers when all US, Canadian and Mexican Class 1 Railroads could be electrified when added to reduced trucking and reduction in commercial air travel as well. A reduction in personal travel cost as well would occur [7
•National Defense. The ability to transport troops and food throughout the United States in the event of fuel embargos.
Russia has already electrified, China, New Zealand and India are in the process. Europe has but their railroad gauges weren’t synchronized to become practical throughout Europe.
The main negating factors are the cost to electrify. When weighed with the efficiencies of combined use for electrification/transmission purposes, fresher faster foods, substantial reduction in carbon emissions, reduced fuel imports, faster ability to construct new electric grid, a reduction in the loss of lives as a result of at grade road crossings, fewer trucks on the roads along with national defense, possibly the benefits outweigh the costs. Without question it is expensive to electrify railroads and I don’t expect it to derive all power from renewable sources from the first round of electrification. Some will come from renewable sources while others might tap into existing transmission lines crossing Railroads from other sources, still more efficient when compared to diesel.
With everything considered, maybe it time for the US and the rest of North America as well.