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freight trains on tracks with packages on platform

Our Region’s Future Rail System Network

Future Rail Safety

Rail grade crossings will continue to be a major safety concern for the OKI region.

Historical data shows 73% of all crashes and 100% of all fatalities between 2016 and 2020 at rail crossings had a safety warning device in place. This crash data, combined with OKI’s forecast for growth in road and rail traffic volumes, suggests rail crossing incidences will likely increase in the future. Technology offers solutions to address this concern.

Future Rail Infrastructure Condition

With nearly 500 miles of freight rail, 786 public and private at-grade crossings, 195 railroad bridges, and about 137 trains traveling in the region daily — which is forecasted to increase — maintenance of our rail infrastructure is critical to the safe, efficient, and environmentally sustainable economic competitiveness of this mode.

Rail operations are expected to continue to be anchored by the Class I railroads at CSX’s Queensgate Yard and Norfolk Southern’s Gest Street Yard, with smaller regional railroads connecting to the Class I’s to expand their customers’ reach nationwide.

Future Rail Mobility and Reliability

Much of the coordination necessary between railroads and public agencies revolves around addressing issues at rail grade crossings. Railroads would like to eliminate as many at-grade crossings as possible. Doing so could potentially impact traffic flow within local communities. The balance between rail freight movement and roadway mobility continues to be a challenge, and is expected to remain one for the foreseeable future.

Future Rail Environmental Sustainability

New advancements in rail-related technologies have potential to greatly enhance air quality along rail corridors and at rail yards; quality of life for residents and businesses near rail corridors (through reductions in noise and emissions), and safety for motorists and non-motorists at rail grade crossings.

Future Rail Economic Competitiveness

Rail freight will continue to have an advantage over other modes due to the weight and volume of commodities shipped throughout the OKI region, and the cost effectiveness of transporting these goods over long distances, particularly agricultural and hazardous products. However, rising competition from the trucking industry may hinder rail’s economic potential.

The Value of Future Rail Technologies

As we look to the challenges for the future of rail freight, there are a growing number of technological advances — under varying degrees of implementation or examination today — that will greatly assist in meeting regional goals. A brief overview of those rail-oriented technologies showing the greatest potential benefits to rail freight safety, infrastructure maintenance, mobility and reliability, environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness is discussed in this freight plan. As shown in the table, each new technology has value in addressing multiple goals simultaneously.

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