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Moving cargo: Trucks, trains and the National Gateway: Sentinel News

October 4, 2009: Sentinel News

Moving cargo: Trucks, trains and the National Gateway

by Andrea Ciccocioppo


Head south on Interstate 81 from Cumberland County to the Maryland border and you will notice warehouses and truck terminals peppered alongside the highway.

There is more than 21,802,000 square feet of warehouse space in Cumberland County alone, with trucks traveling local roadways for drop-offs and pick-ups.

Local residents who travel the interstate complain truck traffic creates a challenge to driving. People concerned about clean air are worried how the influx of trucks contributes to poor air quality in our region.

But drive about 30 miles south of Carlisle and there is a large train-truck terminal that is changing the way goods are transported to and from warehouse distribution centers.


Saving fuel and air

A single train can carry the load of more than 280 trucks. Trains can move a ton of freight 423 miles on a single gallon of fuel.

According to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, moving freight by rail emits three times less nitrogen oxide and particulates per ton-mile than highway transportation. Shifting 10 percent of long-haul freight from the highway to the railway could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12 million tons.

That’s good news for The Clean Air Board of Central Pennsylvania.

The CAB has worked for half a decade to raise awareness about the hazards of diesel fuel fumes and how PM2.5 particulate matter contributes to the deteriorating air quality in Central Pennsylvania.

CAB members have successfully lobbied state officials to take action to protect those vulnerable to air pollution such as children and the elderly. Last year, Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed the Diesel-Powered Motor Vehicle Idling Act, which restricts heavy-duty diesel vehicles from idling more than five minutes per hour.

While CAB has not taken a formal position on intermodal terminals, the group acknowledges they could be a step in the right direction.

“Our purpose calls us to work toward reduction in PM2.5 air pollution, particularly from diesel engine exhaust sources, and we would favor projects that accomplish that overall objective,” said Duane Fickeisen of the CAB. “Rail systems are efficient long-distance carriers and use less fuel per ton-mile of cargo than do trucks, so they have the potential to benefit air quality with intermodal systems.”


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