In February, RAIL Solution adopted a 1000-mile rail segment, with Memphis at its southwestern terminus, as its pilot project for the proposed North American Steel Interstate System. The "Steel Interstate" is a system of electrified railroads with upgraded and expanded infrastructure, designed to move passengers and freight reliably at faster than interstate highway-speeds.
RAIL Solution had formerly proposed a pilot plan between Knoxville and Harrisburg, PA. The Steel Interstate rail concept is as a lower-cost alternative to massive highway-widening, required to accommodate fast-growing truck freight in the I-40/I-81 Corridor.
RAIL Solution elected Steven Sondheim to its Board of Directors, at group's annual meeting in Hagerstown, Maryland. Mr. Sondheim is the first RAIL Solution director to represent the Memphis region. Mr. Sondheim joins Ken Marsh, of Kingsport, and Pete Lotts, of Knoxville, as the first members of the RAIL Solution Board from Tennessee.
"Memphis already serves as a transportation hub and gateway for long-distance truck traffic bound to and from the Northeast," said Sondheim. The Steel Interstate pilot extension also will offer passengers Amtrak connections to New Orleans and Chicago.
Fellow RAIL Solution Board member Ken Marsh, of Kingsport, affirmed the decision, "There is every reason to extend the Steel Interstate pilot project to Memphis. As a transportation portal on the Mississippi River, Memphis offers opportunity for greater success for the proposed rail project. Logistics companies, shippers, and independent truckers will have more opportunities to take advantage of the project at Memphis, a far busier entry and exit point than Knoxville."
RAIL Solution is a seven-year-old, non-profit citizens organization, dedicated to "Promoting building the first segment of the North American Steel Interstate railroad in the I-40/I-81 Corridor--a new system of completely upgraded mainline railroads--the faster, safer, cheaper, environmentally friendlier, and oil-free alternative to highway expansion." The Steel Interstate would improve approximately 40,000 miles of America's current railroad into a rail system capable of simultaneously carrying both fast passenger and freight trains, utilizing highly-efficient, domestic electric energy.
The model system will offer a variety of freight intermodal services—including drive-on/drive-off services for both whole trucks and trailers only. Where truck drivers choose to maintain their loads, the drivers would travel along with their trucks in "sleeper" cars. Drivers can then move their loads on the rails during mandated driver-rest periods. These services would greatly expand upon currently available rail services on this route, which requires large facilities handling crane-lift-compatible-only containers at terminals from New Orleans and Memphis to Pennsylvania and beyond. Approximately 80% of heavy trucks currently moving on I-40 and I-81 haul trailers incompatible with crane-lift technology, but drive-on/drive off will move these, RAIL Solution maintains.
The group recently introduced a new web site – www.steelinterstate.org - to encourage citizen support for a nationwide system of higher speed freight and passenger railroads.
The Steel Interstate System would reduce highway traffic in important freight and passenger corridors, like I-40 and I-81, and reduce environmental and safety problems attendant to fast-growing truck traffic on America's Interstate Highway System. The rail system would ultimately be completely electrified, contributing to the nation an oil-free transportation system. Oil-free mobility fulfills numerous national security, energy, environmental, economic, and safety goals at far less cost than expanded highway lanes.
RAIL Solution began in Virginia, in 2003, when citizens rose up in opposition to a contractor consortium's proposal to widen I-81 to 8-12 lanes including four truck-only lanes. That plan was defeated because of the research and organizing conducted by RAIL Solution. The group counts 1200 supporters primarily in Virginia and Tennessee.