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Railroads are flourishing, attracting investors like Warren Buffett, and Association of American Railroads CEO Ed Hamberger says their main request of government is to be left alone to continue their renaissance. That said, President Obama provided unprecedented support for freight rail through his 2009 stimulus bill. (Yes, I always come back to the stimulus.) It didn't include a freight-rail program, but the biggest grants in its Tiger competition--designed to promote transportation projects with the biggest economic and environmental bang for the buck--all went to freight-rail initiatives that will unclog the arteries of U.S. commerce.
These days, Congress won't spend the bucks on infrastructure, regardless of the bang. But quietly railroads keep spending their own bucks. In an era of austerity, progress chugs along slowly and rarely blows its horn.