CEI Leads Coalition Opposing Freight Rail Reciprocal Switching

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Dear Honorable Board Members,

We, the undersigned, maintain a deep interest in free markets and the benefits they provide to the American consumer. We write to restate our opposition to the Board’s proposal to mandate reciprocal switching on American railroads.

As we have stated before, we believe that the proposed regulations will significantly harm the ability of the nation’s freight railroads to continue their strong records of performance and investment since the passage of the Staggers Act in 1980. Those trends have continued without hindrance since the Board considered these proposals in 2011 and 2016.

We consider reciprocal switching to be forced access. Forced access will needlessly complicate an exchange that is already determined by market negotiation. Railroads’ property rights will be overridden to enforce a regime of below-market rates, which will lead to less investment by railroads, diminished competitive advantage against other modes of transportation, and in the end higher prices for consumers. There will also be more strain placed on the nation’s competing transportation networks, such as the interstate highway network. Second order effects on passenger rail, the environment, and safety will also be costly.

We reiterate that it would be perverse to remove the longstanding requirement to find anticompetitive effects before mandating forced access. At a time when the question of competition policy is a matter of significant national debate, it is odd that the Board seeks to remove any discussion of competitive effects from this aspect of rail regulation. Courts have consistently found that the purpose of competition law is to improve consumer welfare. Moreover, the Board has made no findings of anticompetitive practices that would justify any mandated switching. As the Board’s proposals would ultimately reduce consumer welfare, we must protest that the Board is leaving consumers out in the cold with its proposals.

Moreover, we consider it questionable of the Board to bring up this matter again at a time when the nation’s supply chains are under considerable strain.

For further discussion, please see the reply comments of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in the Matter of Petition for Rulemaking to Adopt Revised Competitive Switching Rules, Notice of Public Hearing, Docket No. EP 711, 78 Fed. Reg. 49721 (Aug. 15, 2013), and the comments of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in the Matter of Petition for Rulemaking to Adopt Revised Competitive Switching Rules; Reciprocal Switching, Docket No. EP 711 (Sub-No. 1), 81 Fed. Reg. 51149 (September 26, 2016).

As was said in those 2016 comments, “Continuing down the path laid out in the NPRM would constitute a dangerous reregulatory action, one Congress has rejected and precisely the type of agency conduct under STB’s predecessor that led to the near-collapse of the railroad industry prior to the enactment of the Staggers Act.”

We once again urge the Board to withdraw these proposals.


Iain Murray
Vice President and Senior Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute

James L. Martin
60 Plus Association

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
60 Plus Association

Steve Pociask
President / CEO
American Consumer Institute

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity

Robert Alt
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Buckeye Institute

Garrett Ballengee
Executive Director
Cardinal Institute

Ryan Ellis
Center for a Free Economy

Andrew F. Quinlan
Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Jeffrey Mazzella
Center for Individual Freedom

David McIntosh
Vice President of Government Affairs
Club for Growth

Ashley Baker
Director of Public Policy
The Committee for Justice 

Jon Decker
Executive Director
Committee to Unleash Prosperity

Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
Consumer Choice Center

Matthew Kandrach
Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Douglas Holtz-Eakin
American Action Forum*

Annette Thompson Meeks
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

Adam Brandon

Jessica Anderson
Executive Director
Heritage Action for America

David R. Henderson
Research Fellow
Hoover Institution*

Andrew Langer
Institute for Liberty

Tom Giovanetti
Institute for Policy Innovation

Sal Nuzzo
Vice President of Policy
The James Madison Institute

Alfredo Ortiz
President and CEO
Job Creators Network

Brett Healy
The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy

Amy O. Cooke
President and CEO
John Locke Foundation

Roslyn Layton, PhD
Visiting Researcher
Aalborg University

Matthew Gagnon
Maine Policy Institute

Charles Sauer
Market Institute

Christopher Summers
President and Chief Executive Office
The Maryland Public Policy Institute

Patrick McLaughlin
Director of Policy Analytics/Sr. Research Fellow
Mercatus Center at George Mason University*

Douglas Carswell
President & CEO
Mississippi Center for Public Policy

David Ridenour
The National Center for Public Policy Research

Brandon Arnold
Executive Vice President
National Taxpayers Union

Daniel Erspamer
Pelican Institute for Public Policy

Mike Stenhouse
Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Paul Gessing
Rio Grande Foundation

Karen Kerrigan
President & CEO
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Christian N. Braunlich
Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy

Randal O’Toole
Thoreau Institute

*Affiliation listed for identification purposes only.