"Railway executive Matthew Rose stood before fellow industry leaders, pointing to a map meant to tell the future of the U.S. rail freight network. It was drenched in red - east to west, north to south.
The blotches illustrated areas where, by 2035, traffic jams could be so severe trains would grind to a halt for days with nowhere to go.
"For those of you who've ever seen a good rail meltdown, this is what it looks like," Rose, CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., said as the crowded hall shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. "It's literally chaos in the supply chain."
While the nation's attention is focused on air travel congestion and the high cost of fuel for highway driving, a crisis is developing under the radar for another form of transportation - the freight trains used to deliver many of the goods that keep the U.S. economy humming.
The nation's 140,000-mile network of rails devoted to carrying everything from cars to grain by freight is already groaning under the strain of congestion, with trains forced to stand aside for hours because of one-track rail lines.
And it's probably going to get worse over the next two decades, according to an analysis of government and industry projections by The Associated Press and interviews with experts on rail freight."