Facebook Page

California Rail 2020 Conference

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Report by Carl Morrison,

(Click any image for a double-sized image; click BACK in your Browser to return to this page.)

Gil CarmichaelKeynote Speaker: 

Gil Carmichael

Senior Chairman, Intermodal Transportation Institute,

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 speech/report.


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 the U.S.

... costly capital improvements...won't happen without public financial support.

... 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 logical replacement.

Unlike the freight user, America's passengers have few choices among modes.

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 distance routes.

 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 crossings.

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 system.

...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.

--Speech Delivered by Gilbert E. Carmichael for the Train Riders of California Annual Conference, Burbank, California, October 15, 2005

Gil Carmichael

Gil Carmichael (right) answering a post-speech question from Alan C. Miller (left).

During the Question-Answer period, Mr. Carmichael mentioned:

He helped create the Alameda Corridor and worked on the development of intermodal service. 

"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."

Official TRAC Website:

[ Back to the Table of Contents | | Carl's Homepage ]