A Message From the Backbone Campaign:

Solutionary Rail is a grassroots campaign to electrify US railroads and open rail corridors for renewable energy transmission. We are building an unconventional alliance to deliver win/win solutions for a just transition to a decarbonized energy and transportation infrastructure. 
We hope you will explore our resources and find a way to pitch in as part of our team or by spreading the word to your friends and colleagues.
Here are some easy ways to get started:
  1. Check out the 3.5 min video http://SolutionaryRail.org/video
  2. Download a Free PDF of the SR book using coupon code 4WRD2GTHR at http://SolutionaryRail.org/ebook
  3. Read our facts and false solutions supplemental brief at http://SolutionaryRail.org/factsnfalsesolutions
  4. Stay up to date with Our RailBite series addressing aspects of the campaign and the interests of our allies at https://www.solutionaryrail.org/railbites

 

How Can Solutionary Rail Help During These Uncertain Times?

CoViD-19 is a confluence of crises that further exacerbates inequities and exposes societal and economic vulnerabilities. Our latest RailBite, Solutionary Rail in a Time of Pandemic explores how this moment of crisis is also an opportunity to address those vulnerabilities, as well as one of the underlying causes of this and future pandemics, i.e. climate change, by undertaking a transformational national infrastructure project. Solutionary Rail offers a pathway to tackle some of the most difficult decarbonization challenges while improving public health, delivering environmental justice, and rebuilding local & national economic vitality.

The recent House Transportation Committee’s Moving Forward Act (MFA) and the House Climate Action Plan (HCAP) address some important challenges, but leave many of the most difficult problems unresolved. Catenary_picture.jpg

The Climate Action Plan champions a National Supergrid for electric transmission to stabilize the variability of renewable energy. It borrows from Solutionary Rail the idea of co-locating that transmission on railroad rights of way. But it has no actual plan for doing so – nor does it leverage the synergies between accessing those rights of way and the potential to re-center rail in our transportation system.

The Action Plan is especially short on “action” or “plan” in regards to long-haul freight (despite our best efforts to guide the authors to a solution). Instead of incorporating advice of Solutionary Rail, HCAP merely acknowledges that it has no solution to the problem of freight, citing a study that anticipates that even in 2050, 50% of long haul trucks will be powered by diesel. Transmission is essential to solving the climate crisis, but we cannot succeed in our decarbonization goals without getting long haul freight off of roads and onto tracks.

The Moving Forward Act also makes important efforts but fails to lead with a vision. It nibbles at the edges with a weak attempt to confront longer and longer unit trains by limiting the time they are allowed to block roads to ten minutes. Laudably, the MFA calls for minimum two-person train crews. It commits to studying the problem of Wall Street capture of railroad corporations via so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR), and it invests in cleaner ports and railyards. But the Moving Forward Act completely fails to move us forward toward a rational, efficient, accessible and decarbonized freight transport system.

The CoViD-19 pandemic is in part a result of catastrophic climate change, and there will be more unless we tackle the causes and build societal resilience. The pandemic is able to devastate our society and economy because we have spent the last four decades dismantling public health systems and abandoning family farms and domestic manufacturing. Instead of more Wall Street bailouts, it is time for bold solutions that turn the tide on climate and economic trends.

This moment presents us with a historic opportunity to stimulate local economic resilience through investments in a rational, efficient, decarbonized transportation infrastructure. It is time to transform our national infrastructure in order to align it with domestic economic vitality, public health and the common good. Investing in an Interstate Rail system that integrates with our Interstate Highway system is a common sense, winning strategy for local and national resilience and is an essential component of any actual climate action plan.

We face an increasing frequency and severity of pandemics if we fail to address their underlying causes. We face further economic and societal strife if we fail to support our communities with an infrastructure designed to bolster local health, resilience and to spend tax dollars wisely to serve the public good rather than the concentrated power and short term profits of transnational corporations.

Solutionary Rail continues to champion bold, synergistic solutions for these most difficult, interwoven crises. The time for Solutionary Rail is now. Join with us by becoming an ambassador for this vision.

Join the Solutionary Rail Team and help us build momentum for the just transition we urgently need. Thank you to everyone on the team who has taken action and helped refine our RailBites and our vision. A special note of gratitude and congratulations to Lewis Kuhlman and the Common Council for the City of La Crosse, Wisconsin who passed a resolution of support for Solutionary Rail, despite BNSF opposition and warnings of “premature electrification.” (I can’t even type that phrase without giggling.)

Forward Together!

In collaboration and gratitude,

Bill Moyer
Solutionary Rail co-author and campaign director
bill@solutionaryrail.org

PS – your donations are an important way to propel this vision. We are currently seeking funding for the development of a tool to help assess the cost and impacts of the current freight system via infrastructure wear and tear, public health, GHG emissions and congestion. We need to raise $25,000 to get this work started, and an estimated total of $100k to complete a tool that can be used by people in every state across the US to advocate for the Solutionary Rail vision with concrete cost/benefit numbers. If you can help, please contact me directly at 206-356-9980 or bill@solutionaryrail.org.

What does Solutionary Rail look like?

(FYI – SR is no longer just about the Northern Transcon, but a proposal for a national integrated, decarbonized freight transport and energy transmission system that benefits all. Check out our recent brief Moonshot Modeshift at SolutionaryRail.org/msms

Who benefits? Solutionary Rail continues to grow an unconventional alliance for a common sense vision that benefits all. Meet some of those allies at SolutionaryRail.org/interviews

 

 

RailBite, July 21, 2020: Solutionary Rail in a Time of Pandemic

CoViD-19 is a confluence of crises that further exacerbates inequities and exposes vulnerabilities. It is also an opportunity to undertake a transformational national infrastructure project that delivers climate and environmental justice, improves public health, and rebuilds local and national economic vitality.

  • CoViD-19 is in part a symptom of the climate emergency. Climate change is causing a biodiversity crisis that makes it easier for viruses to spread from animals to humans. Fossil fuel emissions are the biggest factor in exacerbating the climate crisis, causing habitat loss and ecosystem degradation. As climate change accelerates, the frequency and severity of pandemics will increase.
  • The CoViD-19 pandemic discriminates according to preexisting conditions. CoViD-19 is killing rich and poor alike, but communities of color are suffering dramatically higher infection and fatality rates. One factor in this disparity is proximity to the environmental pollution created by high-use highways, mega-warehouse hubs, railway yards, airports, and ports. Living near these pollution centers leads to higher rates of respiratory illnesses and creates disproportionate vulnerability to diseases like CoViD-19.
  • Air travel contributes disproportionately to CO2 emissions and the spread of diseases. Crowded airplanes and airports are petri dishes for viruses like CoViD-19. Prior to the pandemic, aviation was projected to be responsible for 27% of CO2 emissions by 2050. France is using the CoViD-19 crisis to transition away from shorter distance air travel and invest in railroads rather than bail out airlines.
  • The CoViD-19 pandemic exacerbates economic vulnerabilities. The globalization of supply chains amplified both the impact of the pandemic and its disruption of national and local economies. Over the last 40 years, domestic manufacturing, as well as food production, has been outsourced and offshored by transnational corporations to maximize profits. Agribusiness has replaced family farms, displacing people and hollowing out once-vibrant communities. Overemphasis of commodity exports has undermined domestic food security and soil health. Critical goods, including safety and medical supplies manufactured outside the country, are unavailable when we need them most. Amidst the pandemic, a historic number of people are unemployed, supply chains interrupted, and state and local governments devastated by the loss of tax revenue to fund basic services. A 2nd Great Depression is imminent.

It is time for bold solutions. Instead of more Wall Street bailouts, let’s transform our national infrastructure to align with domestic resilience, public health and the common good.  Investing in an Interstate Rail system is a winning strategy for local and national resilience.

  • Rail transport and corridors are critical for reversing climate change and bolstering interstate trade. The current crisis shows us that domestic production and supply chains for food and critical manufactured goods is essential for our nation’s resilience.
  • Establishing a robust interstate freight and passenger rail system and co-locating a national supergrid on those rail corridorswould reduce climate change, rebuild domestic manufacturing and agriculture, bolster local economies, and improve public health.
  • Creating Zero Emissions Zones is an environmental justice priority that can only be achieved by eliminating long haul diesel trucks. The constant poisoning of fenceline communities with diesel emissions from trucks, ports, railyards and freeways is part of a history of environmental racism that is responsible for the extreme health disparities and higher death rates from the CoViD-19 pandemic. A massive mode shift of freight off long haul trucks and planes onto electrified trains and electric short haul trucks will greatly reduce climate-heating emissions for everyone and the air pollution that disproportionately impacts communities of color and the urban poor.

 

  • Revitalized rail infrastructure creates a critical alternative to aviation and trucking. Battery-powered trucking for short hauls and the electrification of ports and rail yards are solutions that are already gaining momentum. But these actions cannot address the most harmful aspects of our transportation infrastructure. A massive investment in railroad capacity to facilitate a dramatic mode shift of long-haul freight (freight traveling 250 miles or more) from trucks to trains is essential for decarbonizing long-distance freight and passenger transport. Greater utilization of rail, along with the co-location of transmission on rail corridors, will speed the electrification of freight and passenger trains. This dramatic increase in rail capacity will usher in a passenger rail renaissance that replaces most domestic air transport.

 

  • Increasing the capacity of and access to rail transport for people and freight is key to building a sustainable economy and healthier communities. Investments in mode shift and electrification will spare tax-payers the expense of truck wear and tear on public roads and bridges. Getting long haul trucks off the roads will dramatically reduce congestion that costs the US $166 billion/year in wasted time and fuel. Especially in rural communities, this will free up resources for other essential services and infrastructure for sustainable transportation, energy, and agriculture. Access to ship by train will open up new opportunities for rural economic vitality.

 

  • A just transition to a sustainable economy and healthier communities creates good jobs. Rebuilding our national infrastructure and prioritizing railroads as the preference for long-haul freight, decarbonizing trucks and trains, and guaranteeing access to this infrastructure for rural communities will require an immense investment. The societal benefits of this scale of investment include the creation of family-wage jobs across the country, in many fields:
    • Engineering, construction, and maintenance of additional rail capacity, grade separation, and electrification and transmission infrastructure
    • Additional, faster and more frequent trains fully staffed for freight and passenger operations
    • Manufacturing of a green fleet of trains, trucks, and automobiles, and the buildout of the renewable energy sources and transmission to power them
    • Sustainable food production and local manufacturing boosted by investment and access to an efficient transportation infrastructure for small and medium size towns

 

CoViD-19 is a wake up call for our elected leaders to prioritize solutions to climate change, health inequities, and supply chain vulnerabilities. This moment presents us with a historic opportunity to stimulate local economic resilience through investments in a rational, efficient, decarbonized transportation infrastructure. We face an increasing frequency and severity of pandemics if we fail to address their underlying causes, which include climate change. A mode shift from road to rails, renewable energy transmission along the rail corridors, and the decarbonization of long haul transport of people and freight accomplish the most difficult tasks. The time to begin is now.

To download this RailBite as a PDF, click HERE.

More on these issues at www.solutionaryrail.org/video. Legislators and policymakers have a lot of information to sort through – we hope our “Railbites” will help you gather essential information about modernizing and electrifying our transportation infrastructure. Please use us as a resource! Contact info@solutionaryrail.org