The downside of this is that country roads are being beat to heck by trucks hauling heavy freight to and from the hubs. and that rural towns do not have the money for repairs. If we look at the recent Obama Stimulas pack there is a lot of money going to fix up local rural road systems
Exactly what we don't
The economy changes constantly, in response to changes in the most basic of all the inputs (such as fuel and raw labor) needed to keep a diverse post-industrial society running. Any attempt to restore the (over-sentimentalized) past of siding-to-siding delivery (and create political-plum jobs for the union contingent in the current coalition trying to run things from within the Beltway) will only take more money out of the pockets of those of us who still know that only the private sector can generate real wealth
. What the Obama clique seems to have in mind is something along the lines of the "Five Year Plans" that some people in Moscow started cooking up back in the 1920's.
I came of age at a time when the rail industry was at its ablsolute nadir in the early 1970's; since the railroads weren't hiring, I sidestepped into trucking. We never had any problem finding loads, although the natural tendency of the American economy to ship large quantities of raw materials to the Coasts, and much smaller shipments of high-value finished goods back to the interior caused problems for us, too. Salesmen were taught the fine art of "how to pick freight" and the railroads got whatever wan't wanted. Clarence Werner, the man who turned a small fleet into the huge family-run, but publicly-held firm that bears his name, has said on many occasions that he could always get a back-haul that would otherwise have gone by rail.
In those days, Interstate 80 had only recently been completed across Pennsylvania's northern tier, and within a few months, an even bigger share of transcontinental meat and perishable traffic had left the rails both east and west of Chicago. The new realities of both the energy market and the pricing freedoms granted by the Staggers act have been slowly re-diverting a lot of that traffic back onto CSX and NS, but the process is a subtle one, not always noticeable unless you know what to look for. If, as has been predicted, the huge volumes of imported consumer goods that fueled the rail boom post-1985 really have peaked, then those rebuilt mains have paved the way for the rails to take back shorter distance moves. Remember, Conrail experimented with a simple New York-Buffalo RoadRailer freight service called the Empire State Express
back in the late 70's, and that was before the renegotiated crew districts offered the savings they do today.
At its core, rail technology packs so much raw energy efficiency that it can lure any traffic that's worth the effort; the problem is that the fixed, expensive and not-easily changed plant is a sitting duck for politically-motivated interference.