The Pacific Northwest (PNW) transportation network supports both domestic and international supply chains that connect importers, exporters, suppliers, markets and consumers, regionally and nationally. The challenge is keeping the existing overall system viable, while ensuring that the supply chain continues to support future economic growth and prosperity.
The rail network in the PNW is a critical resource supporting the economy and the environment. One way to assure needed improvement and future growth in the overall transportation network is consideration by policy makers and the private sector in developing a long term “integrated rail network strategy” which would improve rail infrastructure and operations in ways that increase efficiency and availability of freight and passenger services.
An “integrated rail network” would:
- Connect short line railroads in order to improve efficiency of regional rail service and keep local and regional trains off the mainlines;
- Connect mainline railroads and short lines at key yards, terminals, intermodal centers and logistics centers;
- Connect rail shippers to the widest possible variety of rail and freight logistics services;
- Provide shippers with access to regional, national and international suppliers and markets;
- Create opportunities for expansion of rail passenger service; and
- Improve rail infrastructure to benefit shippers, passengers, short lines and Class I railroads.
This effort would require a huge collaboration between federal, state, local and private sector stakeholders. And, it would require significant investment during challenging economic times. However, the “integrated rail network” approach could serve as the foundation for maintaining and growing the PNW region’s position as an international gateway, while providing support for industry, more efficient rail connections throughout the U.S. and improved local and regional rail service.