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Future Rail Infrastructure Condition

Infrastructure Condition Overview

With almost 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 region’s rail infrastructure is critical to the safe, efficient, and environmentally sustainable economic competitiveness of this freight mode.

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

Funded and Planned Rail Improvements

As private entities, the railroads themselves are responsible for rail improvements. Competitive considerations are often considered when sharing information related to capacity or operational improvements with those outside the companies. Therefore, a complete picture of the regional rail freight improvement program is not available to OKI.

However, there are rail improvements that require support, coordination and/or funding from public sources, as they possess a strong public benefit. Such publicly funded projects are aimed at improving rail freight safety and mobility in the region. They also target opportunities for increased movement of goods by rail, which enhance economic development. Many of these projects are where the railroads intersect with the public roadway network; in such cases, their funding is programmed in OKI’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) or planned for in the 2050 OKI Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

The Cost of Rail Maintenance

For the smaller railroads, Indiana & Ohio Railway (IORY), Central Railroad of Indiana (CIND), Cincinnati Eastern Railroad (CET), and Indiana Eastern Railroad (IERR), and to some extent the Class I railroads (CSX and NS), infrastructure maintenance is a fundamental challenge.

Regional railroads do not have large revenue streams to implement larger maintenance or capacity adding projects. Lack of revenue also hinders a railroad’s ability to perform basic, regular maintenance. The inability to keep tracks maintained to Federal Rail Administration’s (FRA) standards results in the mandatory reduction of train travel speeds. The greatest number of trains moving in the OKI region (37%) are traveling at a maximum speed of only 10 mph.

Slower speeds increase travel time for deliveries, which in turn diminish a railroad’s economic competitiveness. This can reduce revenues – the very thing needed to make repairs. Slower moving trains also have a potential to impact the communities in which they operate, particularly at grade crossings -- which can be blocked for longer times due to decreased speeds along those tracks needing repair.


Orange tractor pushes and spreads rock gravel between two rails.

Regulator Pushing Ballast into Middle of Norfolk Southern Railroad Track
Source: Ohio Rail Development Commission. (2012).

Railroads are trying to adhere to maintenance schedules to keep their infrastructure in a state of good repair: replacing rail, rail ties, and ballast on a rotating schedule. This proactive planning improves rail infrastructure and reinforces the need for a reliable, annual funding plan that encompasses maintenance costs and potential larger rehabilitation improvements. However, new developments -- lack of domestically produced welded steel rail, costs associated with installing shorter sections of steel rail, and increased costs of ballast stone -- continually arise to challenge the railroad industry and restrict the ability to make maintenance and improvement projects.


Rail maintenance projects identified by railroads through discussions held for this freight plan include:

  • Additional track at the Cincinnati Eastern Railroad transload terminal in Milford, Ohio
  • CSX crossing elimination at Gilmore Road in Fairfield, Ohio
  • CSX Grade Separation improvement at Symmes Road in Fairfield, Ohio
  • Improved truck access to/from CSX Queensgate Yard
  • CSX Spring Grove Avenue railroad bridge widening/replacement
  • An increase in the number of train locomotives and need for them to be new, more efficient
  • Increased inventory of box cars
  • New runaround track at Queensgate Yard
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