Views & News - February 21, 2024

Views & News


Issue Highlights:

Regulatory – New safety alert from FAMES Committee

Legislative – ASLRRA urges Buttigieg, Young to advocate for robust program funding

ASLRRA Annual Conference – New education sessions include a communications bootcamp

NEW SECTION! Grants & Funding – Learn about creating a benefit-cost analysis for grant applications

Industry News – SLSI February Safety Tip discusses workplace housekeeping


Hotel Room Block Rates Expire on Feb. 27!

ASLRRA 2024 Conference

Register Now Agenda Book Your Room



Short Line Notable News

In this section, we showcase short line industry stories published in local media. Click a link to view the stories online.

Mass Coastal Railroad Acquires Bay Colony Railroad

Scenic Railroad to Receive $200K for Track Maintenance

Palmetto Railways New Partnership Will Retrofit Two Locomotives to Battery-Electric Power

TNW: BNSF names logistics site a 'premier' transload location

Railroad members! If you want to be featured in this section, please email us the link. You can also tag us (@ASLRRA) in your social media posts. Interested in seeing your railroad showcased in your local newspaper? Contact Amy Krouse for assistance.

Exhibit Hall Booths for ASLRRA Annual Conference Selling at a Record Pace

ASLRRA is on the cusp of another record-setting year for its Annual Conference and Exhibition, with the Association’s team having already exceeded the number of booths sold at last year’s conference in New Orleans. The 2024 conference Exhibit Hall will feature a mix of old favorites and new faces, with all the food, drinks and fellowship attendees have come to expect from this premier short line event.

ASLRRA and its partner Iowa Northern Railway will have their mobile classroom available for attendees to tour, showcasing the two locomotive simulators and six-person classroom space that can deliver personalized, instructor-led training to railroad employees anywhere in the United States.

The Exhibit Hall’s Green Zone continues to expand, and more companies than ever will be on hand to talk with conference attendees about their environmentally friendly products and services. These run the gamut from recycled products and supplies to advanced technological solutions to consulting and planning.

Receptions and networking breaks will also take place in the Exhibit Hall. Attendees can enjoy breakfast and lunch while browsing booths, and evening receptions on Sunday and Monday provide even more opportunities to make connections over some Kansas City barbecue and complimentary beverages.

Click here to register today for the conference. Time is running out to be included in pre-event attendee lists and other important communications!

Annual Conference Room Block Rates Expire Feb. 27

ASLRRA’s room block rate for the Annual Conference and Exhibition is set to expire on Feb. 27 at the three hotels where the Association has a room block. Room rates will increase after Feb. 27 if rooms are not sold out before then – which is true for Saturday night at all hotels but the Loews. Be sure to use ASLRRA’s conference hotel website when booking lodging to avoid poaching scams.


Kansas Short Lines Receive Grant Funding from State Program

ASLRRA members in Kansas will undertake eight infrastructure projects thanks to grant funding from the state’s Rail Service Improvement Program.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced yesterday that nearly $16.5 million will go to 17 projects tackling expansion and capacity improvements, major rail rehabilitation, preservation, track maintenance and more. For each award, grant recipients will provide a 30 percent match, bringing the total amount invested in infrastructure projects to over $23.5 million.

Both shippers and railroads received grant awards. The ASLRRA members receiving grants are:

  • Cimarron Valley Railroad
  • Garden City Western Railway
  • Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad
  • Kyle Railroad
  • New Century AirCenter Railroad
  • South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad
  • V&S Railway



FAMES Committee’s New Safety Alert Urges Awareness of Risks Associated With Roadway Maintenance Machines

The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-Way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) Committee issued a new safety alert after a recent fatal accident.

A maintenance-of-way tie gang foreman was struck and fatally injured by an on-track roadway maintenance machine (RMM). While the FAMES Committee is still in the process of analyzing the fatality, the group’s safety alert reminds workers of important safety precautions such as establishing clear communications between RMM operators and on-the-ground workers and emphasizing the risks associated with RMM movements during on-track safety briefings.


DOE Funding Opportunity Provides Grants for Emissions-Reducing Projects

A new funding opportunity from the Department of Energy (DOE) makes $15 million in grants available for projects meant to advance deployment of technology needed to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

The Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) within the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will administer the funding, which covers three topic areas:

Clean Cities Outreach, Engagement, and Technical Assistance

Training on Zero Emission Vehicle and Infrastructure Technologies for Critical Emergency Response Workers

Clean Transportation Demonstration and Deployment

ASLRRA members may find funding opportunities possible through the third area of interest, which includes projects that implement renewable fuels, renewable energy sources and alternative fuels into transportation systems or other non-road applications. Click here to view the notice of funding opportunity. The deadline for grant applications is April 30.





Letter to Buttigieg, Young Encourages Support for Robust Funding in FY25 Budget Request

ASLRRA sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young concerning the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program and the fiscal year 2025 budget request the Biden administration is expected to submit to Congress in the coming weeks.

The letter urges Buttigieg and Young to seek the full $1 billion authorized for the CRISI program by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which would be in addition to the advance appropriations funds the BIL already guarantees. Emphasized in the letter is the importance of CRISI grants to Class II and III railroads and the need for robust funding to “fully unlock CRISI’s potential and unleash the rail-focused momentum of the BIL.”

Also included in the letter is a request for Buttigieg and Young to propose robust funding for the Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) and Operation Lifesaver organizations, both of which play a crucial role in improving rail-related safety for railroad employees and the public.


ASLRRA Annual Conference

Media Training Session, Multiple Networking Opportunities Help Make Conference a Must-Attend Event

In addition to the new procurement track education sessions offered at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, attendees can also participate in a media training session meant to help them understand how best to prepare for and manage public communications in the event of a crisis.

Seth Pendleton of KNP Communications will teach attendees how to prepare a communication action plan, remain in control of the message, handle tough questions and more. Participants can also sign up for one-on-one mini-sessions with Pendleton to practice on-camera skills through a mock interview.

In addition to planning dozens of engaging education sessions with committee members and others, the Association’s team works to make the conference an opportunity for fruitful networking between railroaders, suppliers, and agency representatives. Often, these efforts to encourage connections pay off for attendees whose new collaborations, new job opportunities and new customers first take root at an ASLRRA conference.

Conference attendees have long valued the event’s exhibit hall, which serves as the gathering place for individuals from all parts of the rail industry. But attendees can also meet like-minded railroaders in focused education sessions or carve out time to speak with the many executives and industry leaders who will be in attendance. And special events like the golf tournament and closing night party offer more informal venues for meeting new people and strengthening existing relationships.

Click here to register for the conference. Remember to book a hotel room before room block rates expire on Feb. 27. Please use the links and phone numbers on ASLRRA’s conference hotel webpage when making hotel reservations.


ASLRRA Drug and Alcohol Education Materials


Grants and Funding

Countdown to CRISI: Getting a Jump on the Benefit-Cost Analysis

ASLRRA’s government affairs team expects the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to release the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Rail Improvements (CRISI) notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) sometime in March, with less than 90 days until the application due date. The Association urges its members to begin preparing their applications now.

To support their efforts, ASLRRA will explore different topics related to the grant program and the application process in a revival of its Countdown to CRISI series. This week: The Benefit-Cost Analysis

For short lines working on CRISI grant applications, the benefit-cost analysis (BCA) is a required element that can be quite challenging. To help grant applicants, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently released an update to their BCA guidance. This department-wide policy document is the key reference that all CRISI applicants should consult when preparing their BCAs.

Some major changes in this update include lower rates to use for the required discounting of benefits and costs, new higher values for costs of air pollutants and new standard values specific to the freight rail industry. The department has also posted a BCA spreadsheet template that applicants may find useful. This is not an FRA- or rail-project-specific workbook. It is a generic model that might be used for the BCAs required for different USDOT grant programs.

For CRISI applicants, reviewing this spreadsheet template alongside the BCA guidance could be especially helpful for first time BCA preparers who are trying to understand how the end product should look, what the key elements are, and how the elements are connected. The FRA’s webinar from 2022 discussing how to prepare a BCA remains a helpful resource that walks applicants through key concepts and a few useful BCA calculations. The FRA will also offer a new round of informational webinars once the new CRISI NOFO is ready for release.

ASLRRA Offers Grant Assistance in Varied Forms – Including Opportunities at the ASLRRA Annual Conference


FRA Representatives Available for Consultation Prior to CRISI NOFO Release

Representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are able to discuss CRISI grant projects and potential applications prior to the release of the fiscal year 2023 and 2024 notice of funding opportunity (NOFO). ASLRRA members interested in submitting an application or re-submitting an unsuccessful application from fiscal year 2022 are encouraged to contact the FRA.

As the Association continues to emphasize, the ideal time to resolve application issues and seek answers to questions about the CRISI program and related projects is now, even before the NOFO becomes available. Those attending the ASLRRA Annual Conference can meet in person with FRA representatives. In the meantime, and for those not attending the conference, FRA representatives can be reached via email.

To receive a debrief on an unsuccessful fiscal year 2022 CRISI application, contact the FRA here: To discuss a new CRISI application or potential project, email the FRA’s Mara Stark-Alcala.



Register for ASLRRA’s General Code of Operating Rules Training Seminar in May

Railroaders can register now for ASLRRA’s General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) Training Seminar May 7 to 9 in Waterloo, Iowa. Individuals are encouraged to register early as space is limited.

ASLRRA’s JR Gelnar and Iowa Northern Railway Company’s Mark Vaughn will lead the seminar, which is intended for railroads who have adopted the GCOR as their operating rules. Participation in this seminar may be used to meet operating rules training as required by 49 CFR Part 240, 242 and 214 Subpart C.

Registration includes two and a half days of classroom training with daily lunch and refreshments. Attendees will be awarded a Certificate of Completion upon successful completion of online assessment, delivered post-training.

ASLRRA also offers scholarships to employees of small railroads to help offset training costs. Click here for more information about scholarships.


ASLRRA Members Benefit from Coalition Health Plan with HUB International

The Coalition Heath Plan is specifically designed for ASLRRA members looking for a solution to reduce their medical premiums and simplify the healthcare experience for their employees.  Partnering with HUB International puts ASLRRA members at the center of a vast network of experts who provide risk services, claims management, and compliance support. Visit ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program page and select Employee Health Insurance to start saving today!


Training Videos Help Members Comply with Federal Drug and Alcohol Training Requirements

ASLRRA training videos are a popular and important safety resource available as a direct download from the Association website. The Post-Accident Toxicological Testing Video is an interactive training video that provides instruction on when and how to administer post-accident drug and alcohol tests, while the Reasonable Suspicion Drug & Alcohol Signs and Symptoms Video  provides detailed direction on drug and alcohol testing guidelines. 

Visit ASLRRA’s Safety & Compliance page to access the full complement of safety and compliance tools, resources and information available from ASLRRA.


Complete FRA Forms to Ensure Eligibility for ASLRRA’s Jake Safety Awards

Each year ASLRRA honors short line railroad and switching members with exemplary safety records by bestowing Jake, Jake with Distinction and President’s Awards. However, to be eligible for these awards, railroad and switching members must first complete the required Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) accident/incident reports for every month of the previous year.

All members must be current on their 2023 report filings by Feb. 29. For more information, please visit ASLRRA’s safety awards page and see the “Performance-based Safety Awards” section. Included there is a link to FRA Form F 6180.55, the Railroad Injury and Illness Summary. Those with further questions can contact ASLRRA’s Fred Oelsner.


ASLRRA 2024 Railroad Day Registration


Out and About

Staff Shorts – Who’s Where in the Rail Industry World

Jo Strang and JR Gelnar were in Dallas, Texas for a meeting of the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). The group, which included representatives from the FRA, the railroad industry and labor organizations, discussed an implementing memorandum of understanding (IMOU) for beginning a C3RS program at a railroad.



Upcoming Webinars

FRA's Justice40 Rail Explorer – TOMORROW! February 22, 2024

Presented by the FRA’s Emily Grenzke and ASLRRA’s Richard Sherman and Jo Strang

In October 2023, the FRA launched its new Justice40 Rail Explorer tool, an interactive web application that combines data from the U.S. DOT Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, the North American Rail Network (NARN), FRA's Grade Crossing Inventory, the Bureau of Indian Affairs tribal lands, and the 2020 Census. Join us for an overview and demonstration.


On-Demand Webinars

ASLRRA’s Regulatory Webinars Can Help Clarify Requirements for Railroads

Recorded webinars in the regulatory category of ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library can aid rule understanding and compliance. Some available webinars include:

  • US EPA Locomotive Emissions Compliance (40 CFR 1033 and 1068)
  • FMCSA Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Requirements for CDL Drivers
  • FRA Updated Part 240/242 Audit Process
  • Part 243 Railroad Obligations with Contractors

Visit ASLRRA’s webinar homepage to view these on-demand offerings and many more in the Association’s webinar library.


Click here to learn more about our education offerings.


Industry News and Events

Feb. 27: One-Day Workshop Discusses Leadership Turnover in the Railroad Industry

The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Office of Research, Development and Technology is sponsoring a free, one-day workshop titled “Expertise Management for Safety Leadership Positions in Railroad Industry.”

The workshop will discuss an approach called Expertise Management (EM), which is meant to help railroads capture and transfer expertise as industry leaders and subject-matter experts retire. The agenda includes an introduction to EM, the EM framework, related tools and training products and a hands-on demonstration of EM products.

Click here for more information and to register for the event.


March 5: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to Hold Online Meeting

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention's Drug Testing Advisory Board (DTAB) will hold an online meeting on March 5 to discuss proposed changes to the Health and Human Services Drug Testing Panels. Proposed changes include adding fentanyl to the panel and removing MDA and MDMA.

This meeting is open to the public. More information and a registration link to participate can be found here.


Short Line Safety Institute’s New Safety Tip Discusses Good Housekeeping

The Short Line Safety Institute’s (SLSI) February Safety Tip, titled “Housekeeping for Safety,” focuses on the importance of maintaining a clean and organized workplace to help prevent injuries and improve overall worker morale and productivity.

The tip includes a list of ways railroads can reduce workplace injuries through proper housekeeping. This includes proper storage and disposal of flammable materials; elimination of clutter around electrical panels, doorways, walkways and exits; and creation of a list of rules to identify responsibilities, expectations and proper protocol.

These safety tips are just a few of the online resources available at no cost to railroads. Railroads can also access a variety of resources and safety templates, hazardous materials (hazmat) Fast Class training videos, Hazmat Minute Videos and more. SLSI also shares safety tips and other information directly via email. Subscribe to these communications by completing the form toward the bottom of SLSI’s website.


Click here for a calendar of industry events.



Views & News is published by American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.
Please contact Mariel Takamura, associate editor, with questions or comments.