This research provides a comprehensive appraisal and cost tool for the broad spectrum of events occurring on North Carolina’s rail network. It evaluates costs associated with property damage, casualty, and delay, rerouting, and supply chain events. It also analyzes upstream effects, emissions costs, railroad operating costs, and emergency responder costs. FRA safety database records are used to inventory rail incidents that have occurred in North Carolina, while a collection of journal articles, reports, and other data sources such as Amtrak delay records, American Association of Railroads repair and maintenance costs schedules, and public safety answering point data are used for the analysis.
In 2019, there were 187 rail incidents in North Carolina, imposing a total estimated cost of approximately $258.3 million. Of the costs incurred, casualties comprised the largest cost component valued at a cost of $252,816,000. Property damage costs were approximately $3,651,000; costs associated with delay, rerouting, and supply chain disruptions were approximately $1,572,000; emissions costs were $131,000; operating costs were $73,000; and first and emergency responder costs were an estimated $60,000. From 2010-2019, rail incident costs in North Carolina totaled an estimated $2.4 billion.
Policymakers often underestimate the costs of rail incidents and are thus less inclined to allocate scarce resources to rail safety countermeasures. Thus, accompanying this research, the NCDOT Rail Division will be acquiring a cost tool that can be used to estimate the costs associated with the broad spectrum of events that occur on North Carolina’s rail network. The tool can be used to tabulate costs resulting from an individual event or to aggregate costs over a specified time period. Additionally, the tool can be updated as needed with more recent data, making it a living tool that can be useful for years to come.