Recommendations

 

            Comments received at the public forums covered a broad range of topics; from direct government intervention on the operation of rail to a laissez-faire attitude of let the market dictate the winners and losers, and from the need for better highways to handle increased truck traffic to the diversion of as much freight traffic to rail as possible.   However, one overarching fact that couched all comments was cost, either for rail or roads.   At all sites, no one looked at lost rail service as just a freight hauling issue.   Everyone present looked at this issue as an economic development issue that affected all persons within the rural community and ultimately, the State.   As a farmers’ cooperative manager stated at one of the public forms: “When an elevator is bypassed and grain is hauled elsewhere; that local elevator is financially hurt and possibly requires closure a good part of the year if not for good.   This means loss of jobs at the elevator that may have offered other farm supplies, fuels and etc.; this in turn would be shopped for out of town.   Everyone loses in this situation.”   Communities that lost rail service lost one important artery to the community.   Everyone felt that the loss of one artery led to the over dependence on another and in this case the use of motor carriers.   The participants also felt that the loss of transportation options led to less competitive rates for the hauling of their commodities and for local communities to compete in a global market they needed all options available.   

 

            Many of the individual comments generated at the public forums were grouped into the following general areas:

 

            Incremental road damage estimates for counties if short-line rail service would be lost was the most interesting data presented to the groups at the public forums.   This gave the attendees an idea of the amount of tax dollars their individual counties would have to raise in order to pay for the additional road maintenance from increased truck traffic.   Based on the dependence of short-line rail service and amount of grain produced the annual maintenance costs were deduced.   Two counties had annual increased maintenance costs of over $ 6 million.   One was Sedgwick County with a population of over 450,000 with the city of Wichita driving its economy and the other was Greeley County with a population of less than 2,000.   The question arises; “how does a county such as Greeley pay for this increase?”

 

            Figure 3 shows the cost of road damage repair in each Western Kansas Crop Reporting District based on the average crop production for the years of 1998 through 2001.   The actual county cost estimates are available in the attachment following this text.   The county population numbers were included to demonstrate the extreme financial burdens some counties will face.

 

            Recommendations will be presented at two levels.   The first set of recommendations will be directed toward National policy issues and the second set of recommendations will be Kansas specific.   Participants recognized that the future of rail freight movement is interrelated with other modes of transportation and a strong National policy is necessary for states to be able to be effective in their respective policy development.

 

Figure 3

 

 

National

 

National Policy Recommendations:

 

            While many of the recommendation listed above also apply to Kansas, a more state-specific program is necessary to address these issues.   Issues such as better education as to the efficiency of rail freight movement; how tax dollars are not mutually exclusive when spent on rail rather than highways and the use of the State’s low interest loan/grant program are necessary to increase the efficiency of the movement of freight.

 

Kansas

 

 

Kansas Policy Recommendations:

 

      Stakeholder groups that should be enlisted are:

The State needs to address the impact of larger grain cars (286,000 pound) on short-line railroads as fewer standard grain cars are available.   Much of the fleet of standard sized grain cars (263,000 pound) has reached their useful life.   It is recognized by the author, that the State’s low interest loan/grant program is designed to help short-line rail companies deal with this situation, but the current level of program funding is inadequate to sufficiently help our short-line railroads with this situation.  

Michael Babcock, et. al., p.p. 112 - 115