The U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) has announced a plan to impose a series of new regulations on freight railroads.

The new rules would undermine today's balanced regulatory framework that enables railroads to earn enough capital to reinvest back into their infrastructure and operations. This framework was established by the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, legislation that brought freight railroads back to financial health and stability after years of federal over-regulation.

Among the agency’s proposed changes, railroads would be required to let competitors use their lines — potentially at below-market rates. This “forced access" proposal is not only at odds with a market-based system, it would compromise the efficiency of the nation’s rail network.

The stakes for the STB’s proposals are significant not just for railroads, but also for the consumers, manufacturers, farmers, ports and others from coast to coast that rely on trains. If passed, the changes would create service problems across the 140,000-mile rail network, jeopardizing everything from energy transportation to passenger rail service.

Freight railroads are leaders in terms of private spending, reinvesting at six times the rate of the average manufacturer back into their network. It would be a costly mistake to stifle this level of investment at a time when railroads are enhancing and expanding their lines to meet the needs of a growing economy.

You can read more about these proposals in GoRail’s issue brief.

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