U.S. and global economies rely on rail, and BNSF is a vital link in the global supply chain. We enable our customers to participate in a wide range of markets in North America and around the world. Recognizing our contribution to our nation's economy, we work to listen and respond to customers' needs, maintain strong corporate governance, provide value to investors, and strategically invest to keep our rail network strong.
Providing Needed Capacity
We serve a wide variety of shippers in nearly all U.S. industries, and we are working to provide consistent, reliable service today and to build our capacity to meet future demand. We're maintaining and improving our infrastructure, expanding capacity as needed and investing in our fleet of locomotives and railcars. We're also constantly investing to ensure our network will safely and efficiently meet freight transportation needs for decades to come.
Maintaining and Expanding Infrastructure for a Strong Network
Unlike other modes of transportation, U.S. railroads, including BNSF, own and maintain their rights of way. We fund the building, maintenance and repair of a private "rail highway" that delivers tremendous transportation value for our customers and the nation.
During the past decade we spent $24 billion to improve our infrastructure. That includes maintaining a strong railroad through strategic investments in expanding track, yards and terminals; track renewal; technology; and new locomotives. These substantial investments reflect our strong commitment to a safe and reliable rail network.
It takes a lot of horsepower to move 600 million tons of freight per year, and BNSF has one of the newest locomotive fleets in the industry. Since 1999, we have acquired more than 2,700 high-horsepower locomotives. Because they are more fuel efficient, these new locomotives reduce our need to import expensive foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Outlook for Future Capacity Growth
Increasing our rail capacity helps the U.S. compete more effectively and can reduce the environmental impact of freight transportation. The U.S. rail industry transports 40 percent of the nation's goods, in terms of distance and weight, for only 10 percent of the intercity freight revenue. And the value of that transportation continues to rise.
Since 1980 when the government's approach to rail regulation changed, railroads have invested more than $420 billion to maintain and improve their infrastructure. Over the same period, prices for rail transportation fell by more than 50 percent in real dollars adjusted for inflation, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
The challenge throughout the rail industry is realizing a sufficient return on invested capital to enable investments that will meet long-term capacity needs. At BNSF, we work to sustain adequate returns so we can maintain and build our network to meet our shippers' transportation needs.
The U.S. Department of Transportation projects that demand for rail freight transportation, measured in tonnage, will increase 88 percent by 2035. As the economy rebounds and freight demand grows, the nation will need new capacity through expanded infrastructure and improved productivity.
At BNSF, all of our investments in capital, asset utilization, people and technology help ensure we have the capacity to meet current and future freight transportation needs, while also improving our operating reliability and efficiency. The result is a stronger transportation infrastructure for our nation and a more reliable supply chain for our customers.