Senior Chairman, Intermodal
University of Denver
The Case for
Interstate II: Interstates of Steel.
Mr. Carmichael brought 20 copies of his 7-page speech, a technique all
speakers should adopt if they want conference attendees to get the
facts recorded correctly. The following are excerpts from that
TRANSPORTATION FOR A NEW CENTURY--RAILROADS, INTERMODAL AND "INTERSTATE
Since 1980, when railroads
were deregulated, a global intermodal freight network has
evolved. Today it is the world-wide standard for moving
freight. The ship, train, and truck almost seamlessly pass the
versatile container among the modes.
This global intermodal system is sharply focused on speed, safety,
reliable scheduling, and economic efficiency. ...makes use of the
versatility of the cargo container. Cargo ships and airplanes
span the oceans. The freight railroad is the high-speed,
long-distance land carrier. The truck provides local feeder
service. Modern, high-efficiency, high-capacity intermodal
terminals are key to the system.
Today, a double stack train leaving a coastal port can replace 280
trucks, run at speeds up to 90 miles an hour on the western railroads,
and afford as much as nine times the fuel efficiency of container
transport by highway. Overall, the efficiency of freight's
intermodal network reduces other environmental impacts and is much
safer. ... freight's intermodal
network is the most economically and environmentally "sustainable"
approach to transportation.
Bottlenecks include inadequate terminals
and transfer facilities. In many cases the quality of highway and
railroad access to major coastal and inland ports is
unacceptable. Most freight railroad mainlines suffer from serious
capacity constraints. The efficiency and safety of nearly all of
the U.S. rail system is degraded by a proliferation of highway-rail
grade crossings--especially as you approach ports and city
centers. There is one grade crossing for every mile of track in
... costly capital improvements...won't happen without public financial
... for every passenger moving on the nation's transportation system, a
ton of freight is moving. Any planning...for the future
transportation needs of this nation--and of California--must begin with
an appreciation of the profound importance of freight transportation
and the reality that the primary justification for new intercity rail
corridors will be based upon the benefits they offer to freight service.
The principles of freight intermodalism apply equally to passenger
service. With a few exceptions, the notion of seamless intermodal
service for passengers in the Untied States is a joke. Airports
operate on the assumption that all passengers will arrive or depart by
private automobile, taxi, or shuttle van. ... as aviation
retreats from serving smaller feeder airports, the intercity bus is a
Unlike the freight user, America's passengers have few choices among
One way to start the planning process ... is to identify all the
obstacles that retard customer acceptance of passenger alternatives,
and ... create direct connections between Greyhound buses and our
airports and rail passenger stations.
Since the freight intermodal network uses each mode in its most
efficient role, ... high fuel prices only enhance their value.
...the rail mode's superior fuel-efficiency makes it the 21st Century
winner. ...the truck, [ship] and airplane are captive to petroleum
fuels. Railroads have an alternative available to
them--electrification in which the power source is coal, nuclear, or
another non-petroleum energy source. ... it may be time to consider a
selective electrification of high-density rail corridors.
... airline ... ridership for the first half of this year is nearly 6
percent above last year's corresponding period in spite of increased
fuel costs. The key to Jeb Blue and Southwest Air is long
Where do the best opportunities exist for rail passenger
service? ... urban commuter routes and short-distance
corridors between cities. For the intercity routes, shcedule
frequencies and timetable speeds must increase, and these corridors
must be part of regional intermodal passenger netwoeks or the riders
won't show up. ...successful intercity rail corridors inevitably
are tied directly to high-quality urban transit connections at thier
major terminal points. ...other important issues--rail-airport
connections, rail-bus connections, rental car availability.... we must
apply the intermodal philosophy for a meaningful role for intercity
rail passenger service.
INTERSTATE II is a vision of truly high-speed intercity travel based
upon steel, not pavement. There are 150,000 miles of existing
rights-of-way in North America. ...we must build or upgrade about
20,000 miles of corridors capable of train speeds in excess of 90
mph--double-tracked, equipped with CTC and GPS, and
grade-separated. Interstate II would be a high-efficiency network
of steel stretching from coast to coast and from Mexico City to
Montreal. Without it, the railroads won't be able to handle the
business. ...currently freight moving in and out of our largest
cities by highway is plagued by gridlock. An important
element of Interstate II is to eliminate at-grade highway-rail
Can we afford Interstate II? For the equivalent of two cents on
the motor fuel tax this country could have within 20 years time a
network of rail corridors that approaches the scale of the Interstate
...highway projects mainly have the effect of relocating traffic jams
to new locations....
As former FRA Administrator, ...I believe that Interstate II will be
the result of initiatives by several states, whose commitments
eventually will compel the federal government to get off the dime.
By the time the Interstate highway bill became law in 1956, it already
was possible to drive from Chicago to the Atlantic coast entirely via
modern interstate-class tollways.
Congress talks intermodal, but when Congress members vote, they vote
for traditional highway projects.
This is a major undertaking. I believe that California is
uniquely positioned, along with a handful of other states, to take the
lead and make it happen. I urge you to lend your active support.
Delivered by Gilbert E. Carmichael for the Train Riders of California
Annual Conference, Burbank, California, October 15, 2005
Gil Carmichael (right) answering a post-speech question from Alan C.
During the Question-Answer period, Mr.
He helped create the Alameda Corridor and worked on the development of
"Our rail system is running at 25% of capacity, compared to Russia who
has less rail and has more passengers and freight."
"A 'People Mover' is an admission of a problem."
"Freight railroads must realize it cannot succeed without cooperation
with passenger service. Highways, airways, and rivers all haul both freight and passengers."