The nation's freight railroad industry has averted a costly strike after resolving differences with two of its unions and agreeing to extend talks with a third.

The industry's bargaining representative says railroads will try to reach an agreement with the final union before Feb. 8.

Without an agreement, the unions could have begun striking as early as Tuesday. That's when a federal "cooling off" period was set to expire.

The agreements mean Congress will not have to intervene to block a strike. House Republican leaders had threatened to pass legislation on Friday to prevent a work stoppage.

Retailers warned that a national freight rail strike could cost $2 billion dollars a day and prove especially damaging during the industry's most important shopping season of the year.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)