Rail infrastructure moves Kentucky’s economy forward, must be maintained

Published 10:28 am Thursday, February 22, 2018

Each year, two million carloads of freight move on Kentucky’s railways.

Our industry transports more than 59 million tons of freight that originate in Kentucky, while another 36.7 million tons come into the state via rail. That means our Kentucky businesses rely heavily on railroads to transport their materials and finished products — efficiently using just one gallon of fuel to carry a ton of freight for 476 miles.

Kentucky’s railways are a crucial part of the economy and the transportation system transporting a myriad of goods such as building materials, coal, oil, natural gas, agricultural products, recycled metals, cars and automotive parts

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Kentucky must maintain the current public investment level of $1.6 million each year for railway safety on the state’s 3,200 route miles and 2,100 railroad crossings, which supplements a much greater private investment from the railroad industry’s capital. We also must preserve rail lines that are no longer in service due to the decline of the coal industry. That infrastructure will be important for future economic development. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever and that critical recruitment tool won’t be available to attract new industry and generate more job opportunities for Kentuckians.

As members of the Kentucky Infrastructure Coalition, we urge Kentucky to find a long-term, sustainable funding mechanism that provides adequate revenues for all modes of transportation so our state can maintain the infrastructure we have today and build what we need for our future.

Short line railroads, such as R.J. Corman Railroad Company and Paducah & Louisville Railway, serve customers in more rural areas. We move products and goods from regional and rural areas to larger cities with access to Class one rail such as CSX and Norfolk Southern. Those goods are then transported throughout the country.

At R.J. Corman, we have approximately 250 miles of rail in Kentucky and employ 500 people in well-paying jobs at our headquarters in Nicholasville and our rail jobs throughout the state. We also serve an important role in helping our customers grow their business and expand their customer base across Kentucky and throughout the country.

Our short line railroad from Lexington to Louisville services Nugent Sand in Louisville. The route has helped them to expand their business and allows construction contractors an efficient way to access sand. It also saves 15,000 truckloads per year from causing further congestion on our roads. We also transport aluminum from Novelis in Berea to Logan Aluminum in Russellville. Both of these examples are major factors in making our public infrastructure safer and last longer.

Across the state, more than 4,100 Kentuckians are employed in the freight rail industry with each freight rail job supporting 4.5 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

R.J. Corman Railroad Company operates in 11 states and sees how strategic infrastructure investments are being made. Delays in railroad maintenance will drive up the costs and put us further behind our competitor states, many of which have already increased their investments in infrastructure.

That is why we urge action now in finding long-term, sustainable funding for all modes of transportation.

Ed Quinn is the president and CEO of R.J. Corman Railroad Group, LLC.