U.S. Class I railways maintain their infrastructure through a mix of ordinary maintenance and periodic renewal of infrastructure components. Different railways use different proportions of ordinary maintenance and periodic renewal with little consensus as to the best combination. Furthermore, the cost-effectiveness of emphasizing one method over the other has not been analyzed using empirical data. The objective of this research is to investigate the cost-effectiveness of renewal-based maintenance strategies using high-level financial data from industry sources. The results indicate that maintenance strategies that place more weight on renewal result in lower unit maintenance costs, at least within a specified observable range. The results imply that if railroads constrain renewal maintenance to reduce overall capital expenditures, increasing maintenance expenses will more than offset temporary reductions in capital spending.