A majority of Americans say the freight rail industry is critically important to the U.S. economy, according to a survey from the Association of American Railroads (AAR), released Tuesday.

Conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of AAR, the online survey queried 2,200 adults about the freight rail industry and long-term transportation needs in the United States. Eighty-five percent said freight rail is a critical part of the economy and 75% said they view the industry as safe, the survey showed. Researchers said the findings illustrate broad support for the industry and its long-term importance to transportation infrastructure.

“In light of ongoing discussions about the road to economic recovery and the debate on Capitol Hill surrounding the surface transportation reauthorization package, these findings demonstrate broad bipartisan support for the private freight rail industry and its role in safely and sustainably powering American commerce,” the researchers said.

Among the survey’s key findings: 

  • 85% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats–or 8 in 10 American adults overall–agree the private freight rail industry is important to the economy. 

  • 76% of adults say it is safe to move goods by freight trains.

  • 70% of American adults hold favorable opinions of freight railroads.

In relation to the United States’ long-term transportation needs, the poll shows that:

  • 78% agree that freight railroads play an important role in reducing the U.S. transportation sector’s impact on climate change “after learning moving freight by rail instead of by truck lowers greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75%–with 61% of Democrats stating the industry was very important to helping lower transportation-related greenhouse gases,” the researchers wrote.

  • The majority of adults–58%–favor moving freight over land by rail as opposed to truck to meet projected growth in freight shipments over the next 20 years. 

“While freight railroads have worked quietly behind the scenes during the pandemic, the American people have clearly recognized that the hard work and dedication of railroaders has and will continue to help power our economy,” AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies said in a statement announcing the survey results. “As Congress proceeds with surface transportation legislation, it should recognize that the freight rail industry has been delivering through these challenging times and abandon any efforts that would weaken the industry’s ability to serve their customers and the nation. Americans don’t see partisanship when they see a railroad; they see a critical, safe transportation mode helping us all move forward.”


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