Freight rail and trade talk

On March 2, the U.S. rail realm descended upon the District of Columbia to meet with congressional leaders for the annual Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. Congressional offices hosted meetings for 456 visitors — a Railroad Day record, as noted in my April column.

The issues the rail lobbyists for the day came to discuss were the same ones that prompted them to scale the Hill the past several years. But this year, some said they also felt compelled to be there to feel/witness what they presumed would be a palpable, Trump-related buzz in and around D.C. Given all the talk (at that time) about health care reform, tax reform and D.C. reform (i.e., the draining-the-swamp thing) ... along with the Russian thing ... there definitely was some buzzing. About infrastructure, too — all the talk of a bill, or a plan that might be a bill, etc. One thing I asked a cross-section of railroaders about there on the Hill was if there was any concern in rail country about all the trade agreement and tariff talk. On Railroad Day, my question was considered rhetorical by some, negative by others. A few weeks later — on March 29 — the Association of American Railroads issued a press release titled "New Report Confirms Freight Railroads Are Deeply Connected to International Trade."

"Efforts that curtail overall trade would threaten thousands of U.S. freight rail jobs that depend on it and limit essential railroad revenues used to modernize railroad infrastructure throughout North America," AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger said in the release, citing data that he said "validateSleep our view that U.S. policymakers should proceed with caution in their quest to reverse some impacts of globalization."

It's April 13 as I write this, and there's been little (public) discussion the past couple weeks about rail, trade agreements and globalization (and/or attempts to reverse same). At some point, there'll be more talk about it, and of the non-rhetorical variety. In the meantime, we'll ask about it when it makes sense to do (an automobile traffic story in May, a Panama Canal story in June, a Mexico update in August, etc.).

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