Metropolitan Rail Freight Council Releases Action Plan to Increase Rail Freight Capacity in NYC Metro Area

The Metropolitan Rail Freight Council (MRFC), a coalition of public and private organizations dedicated to promoting greater rail freight use in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region, has released its firstAction Plan.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) is a founding member of the MRFC, along with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

The Action Plan is a guidance document outlining recommended steps to create growing rail freight capacity and volumes while investing in and preserving rail freight infrastructure, creating quality jobs, promoting environmental sustainability, creating an infrastructure bank, and ensuring a more resilient freight supply chain for the New York City metropolitan area.

The combination of fatigued, outdated infrastructure and complex regulatory challenges has resulted in substantial over reliance on trucking to move goods around the region instead of rail and other methods. Over reliance on trucking has resulted in increased traffic congestion, pollution, and infrastructure maintenance that strain transportation costs.

Proposed solutions are identified through various projects outlined in the Action Plan that complement ongoing efforts to increase rail capacity in the region, including enhancing infrastructure in both New Jersey and New York.

The Port Authority’s Port Director, Molly Campbell said: “The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is pleased to join its public and private railroad partners to announce the release of the Metropolitan Rail Freight Council’s Action Plan. From the Bronx’s Oak Point Link to the ExpressRail intermodal network to the Cross Harbor facilities, the Port Authority has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in improving freight rail access into and around the New York and New Jersey Region. With Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement of funding for Tier 2 Environmental Review for the Cross Harbor Freight Program (CHFP), the Port Authority will continue to advance freight rail access throughout the region for the benefit of all.”

The Action Plan’s primary goals include increases in:

Economic Development: Grow the number of jobs in the region by increasing competitiveness by making rail shipping a more attractive option
Capacity: Increase the amount of freight that rail can move over the network to support current and future demand
Connectivity: Optimize the freight network to increase fluidity and efficiency across the supply chain
Safety: Ensure the safety and security of pedestrians, private vehicles, and passengers
Sustainability: Minimize the environmental impacts of goods transported by rail-served businesses
Resiliency: The ability for the freight transportation network to rebound from an unexpected disruption, and limit the impact of extreme weather events through hazard mitigation
Intermodal traffic in the Port of New York and New Jersey grew by 22 percent between 2013 and 2015, outperforming the national growth rate of 7 percent. Intermodal freight is freight that is transferred between two modes—such as ship to rail— and is usually carried in 20 or 40-foot shipping containers.

On average, one freight train can move one ton of freight 450 miles on one gallon of fuel. Trucks can only transport that same amount of cargo for 59 miles. Similarly, one freight train can replace 500 tractor-trailers and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent.

A key example of bolstered rail service due to investments by the PANYNJ and the City of New York in Sunset Park is the advancement of the “Southern Gateway,” which has seen a resurgence in rail freight volume. That system features one of the few remaining “car floats” in which rail cars are floated by barge between New Jersey and Brooklyn rail terminals. The New York New Jersey Rail (NYNJR), LLC, a subsidiary of PANYNJ, operates the service.