If high-speed rail blossoms, big profits ahead for state firms

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Pennsylvania is poised to reap big economic benefits from the push for a national high-speed passenger rail system, according to a study.

The Duke University study said Pennsylvania has the second-most rail manufacturing facilities in the U.S., 26 of them, at a time when the industry expects to grow as a high-speed system takes shape.

New York is first with 32; Ohio is fifth with 13.

Pennsylvania also could benefit if Congress passes a long-term transportation bill that increases investment in mass transit, said the report, which was done for the San Francisco-based Apollo Alliance, a coalition that advocates rebuilding the economy around clean energy and good jobs.

"Our research found that there is a healthy chain of U.S.-based suppliers that manufacture components and systems for rail cars, and many of them are located in Pennsylvania," said Marcy Lowe, senior research analyst at the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness and the report's lead author.

The report notes that in the half-century that ended in 2006, for every dollar spent on rail, $16 was spent on highways.

"There is a pretty good chance priorities will shift and that rail and public transit will get more funding," Ms. Lowe said last week.

The federal economic stimulus bill last year allocated $17.7 billion for passenger rail and transit, including $8 billion for development of intercity high-speed rail.

Ms. Lowe said she was surprised at the extent of rail manufacturing already occurring in the U.S. Some 249 companies build rail cars or locomotives or manufacture component parts for passenger rail cars, the study found.

"People make sweeping statements that there is no rail manufacturing in this country," she said.

While it is true that the "big players" in the industry are overseas -- Europe and Asia are far ahead of the U.S. in passenger rail transportation -- "there is no need to dismiss the industry altogether," Ms. Lowe said.

"It's not at all as if we're starting from scratch. We have a very extensive base already," she said.

"Pennsylvania has a real chance to be at the center of America's 21st century rail manufacturing industry," said Phil Angelides, chairman of the Apollo Alliance. "Our nation needs a new transportation policy that invests in expanded public transit and more energy-efficient transportation, including rail. Done right, these investments could mean a windfall of manufacturing jobs for Pennsylvanians."

The study found that manufacturers with facilities in Western Pennsylvania are Bombardier Transportation (West Mifflin); Brookville Equipment (Brookville); Kasgro Rail (New Castle); GE Transportation (Erie and Grove City); Ansaldo STS USA (Pittsburgh); Converteam Inc. (O'Hara); Mitsubishi Electric (Marshall); ORX Railway (Tipton, Blair County); Penn Machine Company (Blairsville); PHW (East Pittsburgh); Standard Steel (Pittsburgh); and Westcode Inc. (Wilmerding and Greensburg).

A similar study on transit bus manufacturing released by Duke researchers in October 2009 identified eight manufacturing facilities in Pennsylvania. They could benefit from increased public transit spending in a new federal transportation bill.

The long-term bill, which is needed to replace the federal transportation law that expired in September, is stalled in Congress.

The report, U.S. Manufacture of Rail Vehicles for Intercity Passenger Rail and Urban Transit: A Value Chain Analysis, can be viewed at http://apolloalliance.org.


Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit "The Roundabout," the Post-Gazette's transportation blog, at post-gazette.com.


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