by Charles Davidson – EconSouth, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
The freight railroad system was one of America’s early infrastructure successes, and, despite great changes in the U.S. economy, it remains a vital link in the nation’s commerce. In recent years, railroads have benefited from a growing population and economy, both of which increase the number of containers crisscrossing the country to destinations near and abroad as part of the intermodal transport system. Intermodal is the present and the future of the freight rail industry. This comes at a good time as demand to haul coal is slipping,. Other factors in addition to intermodal traffic are making up for the dip in coal shipments, including a stronger economy and higher prices, as well as rising crude oil volumes.