Glen Anderson/ 2019 Olympian Board of Contributors
It’s rare to find a creative proposal that solves many problems at the same time. I’m enthusiastic about Solutionary Rail, a campaign to electrify US railroads and open rail corridors for renewable energy transmission.
Solutionary Rail would significantly reduce fossil fuel use and air pollution. It would protect our environment, climate, and public health. It would create jobs and help local communities – including seaports, transportation hubs, cities, freeways, and rural areas.
Solutionary Rail’s bold, systemic changes would be better than merely converting to electric cars and trucks. Moving freight now involves ocean-going ships, railroads, trucks, workers and local communities. Solutionary Rail would provide cost-effective infrastructure for localizing our economies and moving people and goods more efficiently.
Railroads used to be the main transportation system for freight and passengers, but freeways and airplanes displaced trains. Trains did not keep up with modern technology. Years ago, trains served small communities, but now their passenger and freight stations are shut down. Solutionary Rail would allow better service to rural areas and help revive them.
Merely electrifying vehicles would not ease traffic congestion, but shifting freight from trucks to trains would. Also, trucks wear out our roads and highways more than their fuel taxes pay for, so the rest of us end up subsidizing trucks.
Moving freight long distances on trucks is horrible for the environment. We should use trucks only for shorter distances and use trains for long-distance shipping. To decarbonize trucking, we should use trucks only for less than 150 miles per day so they could be electrified.
In less than four minutes, a video at this link — www.solutionaryrail.org/video — makes a clear and compelling case.
Solutionary Rail would be good for railroad, trucking and warehouse workers. Most railroad workers do not have regular work schedules but are on call 24 hours a day, causing chronic fatigue and safety problems for workers and wherever trains travel. Workers for railroads, trucking and warehouses – and people who live nearby those enterprises – must breathe diesel fumes. Electrification would reduce health problems.
Solutionary Rail would be good for all of us. The Solutionary Rail movement is bringing railroad workers, impacted communities and environmentalists together to create win-win-win solutions for more jobs, safer jobs, safer communities, and stronger local economies.
Let’s electrify trains with overhead power lines over their existing tracks. Also, electric locomotives could use regenerative braking to return electrical power to the electrical grid, further increasing their efficiency.
The U.S. could generate much solar and wind energy to power the trains. Also, additional high-voltage direct current power lines could be installed above those powering the trains. These additional lines could transmit clean alternative energy to customers nationwide, including areas with less sunlight or wind. Local communities and tribes could make money by generating this solar and wind power and selling it to customers nationwide.
Solutionary Rail would be so efficient that it would attract more freight and passengers, allowing railroads to better serve urban, rural, small town, and tribal economies. It would reduce air pollution in trackside communities and protect our environment and climate.
Solutionary Rail would be far more cost-effective and far quicker to accomplish than expensive, disruptive “bullet trains,” which would be unnecessary because Solutionary Rail’s existing rail lines could easily allow for travel of 110-124 mph with only minor improvements. In contrast, “bullet trains” would need expensive new rights-of-way and would be bogged down in many years of legal fights. Rail companies already have routes and easements nationwide, so we could electrify them fairly quickly and economically.
Also, “bullet trains” for passengers would not solve the problems of big trucks, freeway congestion, and air pollution. Solutionary Rail would solve those problems.
Solutionary Rail would be very compatible with the Green New Deal because it provides solutions for the climate, workers, and local communities.
Let’s urge the state and federal departments of transportation – and our congress members and legislators — to support Solutionary Rail.