Transportation and Economic Impact of Texas Short Line Railroads
Saldarriaga Carmona, Daisy del Rosario
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This report documents the analysis of the transportation and economic impacts of Texas short line railroads. Survey invitations were sent to 43 Texas short line railroads and 20 responses were received. Onsite interviews with 5 railroads and 3 community leaders were completed. The software IMPLAN was used to estimate the economic impact of short line railroads at both county-level and state-level. Transportation impact analysis was conducted to estimate the cost by rail and the cost by diverted truck. Shipping cost, safety cost, maintenance cost, highway congestion cost, and emission cost were calculated in this analysis. The transportation impact analysis results indicate that, on average, the shipping cost of short line railroad is estimated to be 7.5% less than that of highway modes; the maintenance cost of short line railroad is estimated to be 70.2% less than that of highway modes; the safety cost of railroad is estimated to be 37.9% less than that of highway modes; and the emission cost is estimated to be 7.0% less than that of highway modes. The total transportation cost of railroad is estimated to be 24.3% less than that of highway modes. Moreover, the operation of 14 surveyed short lines in Texas provided an annual reduction of over 400,000 truck trips for their shipments. The economic impact analysis results indicate that, at state-level, the operation of short line railroads in Texas contribute approximately 1,500 jobs, $113,769,600 in labor compensation, and $354,443,600 in economic output. At county-levels, the short line railroads contribute 1,100 jobs, $87,799,900 in labor compensation, and $274,959,900 in economic output. This research also found that short line railroads in Texas have substantial needs in terms of improving their infrastructure. These improvements include better interchange with connecting carriers, more customers or businesses, extra right of way available for expansion/rehabilitation of rail line, infrastructure improvements, and more tracks and yard space. However, these improvement needs are usually beyond their affordable capacity for short line operators. The need for more state funding was mentioned by several railroads during the surveys and interviews. As Texas short lines play a significant role in the local community and the state economy, there is a necessity to establish assistance programs for short lines to help maintain and improve the existing infrastructure. State support strategies for short lines in other states were reviewed and potential funding opportunities were discussed in this report.