Infrastructure is my business at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. It is one of the Florida Chamber’s six pillars for the state’s economic future, and I see each day how a robust transportation system can attract businesses, advance growth and create jobs.
Among this important network of trucks, barges, trains and planes, Florida’s freight railroads distinguish themselves on infrastructure because they’re paying to maintain and enhance their lines with little help from taxpayers. Freight rail is injecting billions of private dollars — $25 billion annually for the past several years — into the nationwide network that hauls finished products to our ports, raw materials to our manufacturers and goods to our customers.
A new report from Towson University in Maryland quantified the impact from freight rail investments, finding that spending by the largest U.S. railroads created $274 billion in economic activity and generated nearly $33 billion in total tax revenues in 2014.
The cascading effect of these investments is hard to overstate. Enhanced rail operations in Florida, not to mention the rest of the country, mean that our ports can move more imports and exports and meet the increased demand of an expanded Panama Canal. Port Tampa Bay, for example, is continuing to invest in rail connectivity as part of a long-range development plan that aims to bulk up its presence in the container market.
Smart policies have allowed companies to make significant private investments in our state’s all-important transportation network. Florida needs to keep these good policies, and others like them, rolling.
Christopher Emmanuel, Tallahassee
The writer is director of infrastructure and governance policy with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Published in the Tampa Bay Times, July 12, 2016