The North American Steel Interstate Coalition is still in the process of becoming. We have a year of organizing ahead leading to a founding congress of Steel Interstate supporters. We want to build a nationwide advocacy network for the Steel Interstate system.
The Coalition grew out of a Virginia citizens group, RAIL Solution, which organized in 2003 to fight privatization of I-81, the most valuable public asset in western Virginia. The proposal would have transformed the rural highway into a massive eight-lane truck tollway. The I-81 Corridor in Virginia illustrates the pressure for new highway capacity for trucking. Finally in 2008, RAIL Solutoin successfully defeated the KBR proposal to build four exclusive truck lanes in the middle of four “mixed use” lanes along I-81. A major freight haulage corridor from the Northeast and Canada through the Appalachians with direct connections to the Mid-South and Texas, I-81 also serves as a toll-free bypass for truckers unwilling to ply congested I-95 sections up and down the eastern seaboard.
Heavy tolls were planned to pay for the doubling of lanes, additional right of way, and massive interchanges, allowing trucks to enter and exit truck-only lanes. The plan was weighted down by the bloated $13 billion price tag, to be borne by users, including passenger car drivers. The highway would have created a giant asphalt scar across 325 miles of Virginia’s most beautiful rural landscape—the Shenandoah Valley, the Valley of Virginia, the Roanoke Valley, New River and Holston River valleys. The giant truck toll road would impact the serenity of 10 Civil War battlefields and other historic resources.
2005 RAIL Solution rally for rail in I-81 Corridor, Abingdon, VA. Photo: Kathy Shearer
Early on, RAIL Solution discovered former Federal Railroad Administrator Gil Carmichael's idea that railroads be upgraded to operate both freight and passenger trains at faster than highway speeds. Trains operating reliably faster than highway traffic could divert both freight and passengers from parallel highways. RAIL Solution promoted the concept which it dubbed the Steel Interstate.
Significantly, Steel Interstate design facilitates both fast freight and passenger trains to use the same upgraded rail infrastructure, operating from 60 to 110 mph. This potential to serve passengers as well as freight is significant for places like western Virginia and Tennessee which have been without passenger rail service for over a generation.
RAIL Solution pressed a legislative initiative through the Virginia General Assembly, requiring Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation to conduct a study of potential truck diversion to rail along I-81. The study concluded in early 2010 that over 50% (and potentially many more) of through-state trucks could be diverted to a reliable, scheduled, and frequent railroad service that offered highway-competitive delivery times.
Now that the truck-only lanes controversy appears over in Virginia, zombie-like, it has arisen again along I-70 in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. The massive and untenable plans for massive rebuilding of interstate highways will continue unless as a nation we adopt multi-modal thinking and planning.
Convinced that the Steel Interstate concept was solution not just for Virginia , and not just for the I-81 Corridor states, RAIL Solution decided in 2010 to take the Steel Interstate idea to a national audience. The Steel Interstate System will benefit the national economy, our health and safety, the nation's security, and our environment—including dramatically reducing both national oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The SIS is the only national infrastructure programthat will pay for itself—in saved imported oil, improved international balance of payments and competitiveness, and capital retained for investment at home in the USA.
RAIL Solution developed and paid for this website which went live in the fall of 2010. Steelinterstate.org is designed as an organizing platform for the nascent North American Steel Interstate Coalition. The coalition has already attracted a number of "Regional Initiatives" and "Partners." RAIL Solution is seeking funding to organize support for the Coalition and a NASIC founding Congress during the next year. Already, NASIC has attracted a number of other "Regional Initiatives."
Each of these citizen groups has it's own history which you can explore on their websites.
The North American Steel Interstate Coalition's Regional Initiatives are:
- All Aboard Ohio
- All Aboard Washington
- Maine Rail Transit
- RAIL Solution, (Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania)
- Rails Inc., (New Mexico)
- Texas Rail Advocates
- Virginia Association of Rail Patrons
Please contact us if your organization is interested in being a Partner or a Sponsor in bringing into the North American Steel Interstate System into being or if you have questions of any kind.