Alternative Infrastructure: Canals and Railways Far Surpass Highways in Efficiency


Sung Park for The New York Times

In the closing days of this election there is all kinds of talk of a New Deal scale investment in infrastructure. But what? Roads? Bridges? A great example of forward-thinking infrastructure investment is the Erie Canal that has been connecting New York City and the Atlantic ocean with the Great Lakes since 1825. This year traffic almost tripled over the previous year. The reason? Christopher Maag writes in the New York Times:

The canal still remains the most fuel-efficient way to ship goods between the East Coast and the upper Midwest. One gallon of diesel pulls one ton of cargo 59 miles by truck, 202 miles by train and 514 miles by canal barge. A single barge can carry 3,000 tons, enough to replace 100 trucks.

The Times also writes about the resurgence in rail.

The high cost of fuel, along with traffic and airport congestion, is drawing travelers back to trains for commuting and for travel between cities as much as 500 miles apart.

Not everyone agrees that it is a good thing:

Critics say it is unfair to require people in areas where there is no Amtrak service or infrequent service to subsidize the train travel of people in the few corridors where there is frequent, fast service.

"I do not think you can justify many, perhaps most, of the routes Amtrak is running," Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said in a Senate debate last month. "Fundamentally, the romantic view that we are going to have some sort of major international rail system does not seem to be realistic."

-as if government money has not been spent in Alabama on things that don't affect a citizen in New York City.

New York Times
More on canal transport:
Transport By Barge on the Erie Canal Uses a Tenth of The Fuel of a Truck
UK Canal Freight Under Scrutiny: 80% Less CO2 Than Road Haulage ...
Ethanol Follies in Upstate New York
Supermarket Delivers By Barge to Save Emissions : TreeHugger

More on Amtrak:

Taking the Train to New York: The Only Way to Fly
Amtrak Finally Gets A Boost in Funding
Allison Rogers on Taking a Train from DC To Rhode Island

Tags: Boats | Public Transportation

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