Rick Webb, Watco Companies, Inc. CEO, testified Wednesday in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, stressing the importance of a renewed investment in short line railroad.

Rick Webb, Watco Companies, Inc. CEO, testified Wednesday in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, stressing the importance of a renewed investment in short line railroad.
Webb testified on behalf of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association regarding the current and future state of the nation's railways.
"We talked about what needs to be done to rebuild the passenger and freight rail industry," Webb said. "When the government talks about wanting to see shovel-ready opportunities to stimulate the economy, we feel like the short lines are in great position to do that."
America's 500 short lines operate nearly 50,000 miles of track, or almost one-third of the national railroad network. In some areas the short line is the only connection to the national railroad network.
"There are a lot of projects we're already working on," Webb said. "If the government is looking to invest in the infrastructure of the U.S., rail, highway, waterway and air travel are all great places to look. They are all options to move freight, and people, not just through the country, but throughout the world."
Webb said one of the questioners asked how many jobs would be created if the stimulus package invested in rail.
The ASLRRA has identified $781 million in "shovel ready" projects throughout the short line network Most short lines hire contractors and laborers to do the rehabilitation work and 30,000 jobs would be created if the funding were available for "shovel ready" projects.
That number doesn't include economic activity generated by purchases for materials and needs provided by the service industries, Webb said.
He said an investment in rail would have a large impact on the state's economy as well.
"The largest areas of impact would basically be the Midwest, the gulf and the northwest," Webb said.
Webb said any government investment would be welcomed because there is a capital shortfall in the industry, based on projections of volume growth, thanks to the struggling economy. But he said rail was an attractive investment for several reasons. For one, rail is a green solution. If cars ran at the same efficiency as rail, they would be running at 400 miles per gallon, he said. It's also a strong economic solution, he said, as laying a mile of highway costs five to six times more than laying the same amount of rail.
"Everybody believes that it is going to come back," Webb said. "Rail has the best opportunity to take care of more of our transportation needs in the future."