The freight rail network has been a bright spot in a troubled economy.
That's because freight railroads, unlike trucks, airlines or barges, have been using private capital to invest in the rail network and facilities in Blair County and around the country.
Even through the recession, railroads such as Norfolk Southern have stayed committed to the providing safe, reliable, efficient and affordable service, employing people in well-paying jobs that support families and communities.
President Barack Obama has urged businesses to get off the sidelines and begin hiring and spending private capital.
Freight rail companies have been investing and have a 30-year track record to prove it. Since 1980, freight rail industry has invested $480 billion to maintain and modernize the nation's rail network.
Looking ahead, these investments are not slowing down.
In 2011, freight railroads plan to spend a record $12 billion in their own funds on capital expenditures - on things like upgrading tracks, new fuel efficient locomotives and new intermodal facilities.
Railroads also have been investing in people. As traffic continued to return in 2010, they brought workers back and hired to meet the needs of shippers. At the end of 2010, railroad employment was up roughly 5.2 percent, bringing total employment at the nation's freight railroads to 175,000.
Railroads plan to hire more workers this year, as rail traffic continues to recover. The major U.S. railroads estimate they will hire close to 10,000 workers in 2011 to address retirements and attrition and to meet increased demand for transportation services.
Pending retirements also likely will stoke a hiring wave over the next several years.
According to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, more than 67,000 railroad employees, or roughly 30 percent of the total workforce, will be eligible to retire in the next five years.
All of this signals good news, as railroad employees are among America's most highly compensated workers.
According to the most recent U.S. government data, the average full-time rail worker in 2009 earned wages of $81,563 and benefits of $25,522 for a total average compensation of $107,085. That compares with the average U.S. employee who in 2009 saw average total compensation of $64,552.
The need for rail investment is going to grow. Today, American requires the movement of 40 tons of freight each year.
The Federal Railroad Administration said that in the next 25 years, as population levels increase, the rail network will be required to accommodate 400 million additional tons of freight and 600 million more tons over the next 40 years.
What's more, two of the administration's policy goals are tied to a healthy freight rail industry continuing record investment.
One is the goal to double American exports, which will require freight rail to transport even more goods. The other is improving intercity- and high-speed passenger rail service.
While there are many possibilities for, and great expectations of, the rail industry, some in Washington, D.C., are pursuing changes to the regulations that have allowed the industry to flourish.
Faced with huge revenue curbs if these changes are approved, spending on rail infrastructure and equipment could fall dramatically.
There is hope that common sense will prevail in Washington.
Speaking before business leaders, Obama earlier this year called for scrapping rules that inhibit job growth, vowing to remove rules on the books that are stifling job creation and economic growth.
This reasonable approach to regulation, with an eye on how it impacts business and jobs back home, is the right direction for America. Now is the time to revisit regulations that stand in the way of reaching our goals, while preserving those that help enable economic growth - like those that have brought forth a healthy and vibrant American freight rail industry.
Don Faulkner is the Juniata Locomotive Shop general superintendent.