Class I Railroad:
Any railroad with annual gross revenues of at least $250 million (in 1991), according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. These are the largest long-distance U.S. railroad systems such as Union Pacific-Southern Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, which own most of the track in the United States. Since passage of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, aimed at deregulating the once highly-regulated industry to make it more efficient and cost-competitive, the number of Class I railroads has declined through consolidations and mergers, from more than 30, to eight in 1998. This consolidation has concerned many agricultural shippers—particularly those who lack access to nearby markets or to water transportation—fearful of higher prices due to lack of competition.