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Life Cycle Assessment of Creosote-Treated Wooden Railroad Crossties in the US with Comparisons to Concrete and Plastic Composite Railroad Crossties

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DOI: 10.4236/jtts.2013.32015    3,804 Downloads   6,427 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

Creosote-treated wooden railroad crossties have been used for more than a century to support steel rails and to transfer load from the rails to the underlying ballast while keeping the rails at the correct gauge. As transportation engineers look for improved service life and environmental performance in railway systems, alternatives to the creosote-treated wooden crosstie are being considered. This paper compares the cradle-to-grave environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) results of creosote-treated wooden railroad crossties with the primary alternative products: concrete and plastic composite (P/C) crossties. This LCA includes a life cycle inventory (LCI) to catalogue the input and output data from crosstie manufacture, service life, and disposition, and a life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) to evaluate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fossil fuel and water use, and emissions with the potential to cause acidification, smog, ecotoxicity, and eutrophication. Comparisons of the products are made at a functional unit of 1.61 kilometers (1.0 mile) of rail-road track per year. This LCA finds that the manufacture, use, and disposition of creosote-treated wooden railroad crossties offers lower fossil fuel and water use and lesser environmental impacts than competing products manufactured of concrete and P/C.

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C. Bolin and S. Smith, "Life Cycle Assessment of Creosote-Treated Wooden Railroad Crossties in the US with Comparisons to Concrete and Plastic Composite Railroad Crossties," Journal of Transportation Technologies, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2013, pp. 149-161. doi: 10.4236/jtts.2013.32015.

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