Views & News - February 28, 2024

Views & News


Issue Highlights:

Regulatory – ASLRRA submits comments on proposed RRIF changes

Legislative – U.S. Department of Transportation to be affected by potential partial government shutdown

New Members – ASLRRA welcomes three new members

Grants & Funding – FRA releases updated grants calendar

Industry News – NCDOT report highlights rail’s economic benefits


Hotel Room Block Rates Expire March 1!

ASLRRA 2024 Conference

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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.


Fort Myers reconnects with national rail system as Seminole Gulf Railway completes test run

Contract awarded for $3M industrial park in New Orleans East


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.

Nightly Rates Expected to Double Once Annual Conference Room Blocks Expire Friday

ASLRRA’s room block rate for all three hotels expires on Friday, March 1. After Friday, room prices are expected to more than double, exceeding $600 per night at the Loews Kansas City, Hilton President Kansas City and Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Kansas City.

All three hotels are sold out for the night of Saturday, March 23, but rooms are available for the rest of the conference, from Sunday, March 24 through Wednesday, March 27.

When using the hotel booking link, please ensure the dates selected in the search are between March 24 to March 27 to receive a listing of available rooms.  There are no rooms available in any ASLRRA room block on March 23.  Having March 23 as part of a date range will result in “no rooms available” response.

More information is available on ASLRRA’s conference hotel website. On the hotel website ASLRRA has also listed other hotels in downtown Kansas City that are near the convention center where the conference is being held. The association does not have a contract with these hotels, but registered attendees needing lodging on Saturday night or for other nights during their stay might be able to take advantage of these other options.

Although room block rates expire, it is not too late to register for the conference and join the over 1,300 individuals who will take part in engaging education sessions, enjoy networking opportunities in the packed exhibit hall, hear from executives and industry leaders during the general session and participate in special events like the golf tournament.


Consider Becoming a Volunteer at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference

ASLRRA’s staff, like short line railroads, accomplishes a great deal for its small size. Nevertheless, an event as large and popular as the Annual Conference and Exhibition requires additional support from registered attendees who also donate their time to assist in various roles throughout the duration of the event.

Volunteering is a good way to interact with the many railroad professionals, suppliers, government representatives and other stakeholders who attend the conference. Helping at the conference registration desk, where nearly all attendees stop at least once, means being at the heart of the event. Volunteers also direct people to education sessions, answer general questions and help with other tasks.

Those interested in becoming a volunteer at the conference should contact volunteer coordinator Steve Friedland.



ASLRRA Comments Support Proposed Changes to RRIF Program

ASLRRA submitted comments in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would make some changes to the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) programs.

The Association supports the two proposed amendments. One establishes an interest rate framework for the new longer loan tenors enabled by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for both programs.  The second rule change converts RRIF credit risk premiums, if assessed, from upfront fees levied on loan drawdowns into equivalent interest rate spreads, distributing this cost over the repayment period of the loan. 

The RRIF program provides federal loans for a wide range of eligible railroad projects. Out of $35 billion in total lending capacity, $7 billion is reserved for Class II and III railroad borrowers. ASLRRA member Sierra Northern Railway, with Mendocino Railway, received a $31.4 million RRIF loan in January to expand and rehabilitate rail infrastructure in California.  ASLRRA’s RRIF comments note the significant amount of time – almost four years – that it took for this loan to be approved and finalized. The Association also points out there have only been three short line loans made since 2011.


EPA Public Hearing to Discuss CARB Request to Authorize Locomotive Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a virtual public hearing on March 20 to discuss a request from California that the EPA authorize the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) In-Use Locomotive Regulation.

Interested parties will be able to participate in the hearing to provide testimony and comments, with time limited to three minutes per speaker. Those wishing to attend or testify at the live online hearing must register no later than March 13.

The EPA is also accepting written comments, which are due by April 22. ASLRRA staff plans to participate in the proceedings.


FRA Releases Reports Concerning Rail Industry Technology Research

Three new technical reports and one research results document from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) discuss a variety of technologies currently being studied by the agency and its partners.

The Interoperable Employee-In-Charge Portable Remote Terminal (EIC PRT) Summary Report defines requirements for EIC PRT functionality for use with positive train control (PTC) systems. An EIC PRT system integrates with the PTC system to allow the employee in charge (EIC) to control train entry and movement through the EIC’s work zone, which helps increase protection for maintenance-of-way personnel. The research team produced several EIC PRT engineering documents and recommended several steps to facilitate deployment of EIC PRT systems.

Another report, Development of Railroad Trespassing Database Using Artificial Intelligence, discusses results of a study by a Rutgers University research team to use artificial intelligence (AI) to process large volumes of video data from railroad rights-of-way and grade crossings. The Rutgers AI algorithm analyzed over 28,000 hours of live and recorded video from 11 locations in six states and gathered information such as traffic, rail signal activation, weather, trespasser’s path and date, time and type of trespasser. Data from this project is meant to help the FRA, railroads and stakeholders understand trespassing events and factors and provide data to support development and implementation of solutions.

The third technical report, Impact of Advanced Train Control Technologies on Rail Network Safety and Operational Performance, describes results from a study on the effects of implementation of a nationwide advanced braking system (ABS). The study analyzed simulation results from a 5,000-mile mini-network, meant to reflect the current North American rail system. Results showed that freight trains with ABS had a 38.4 percent reduction in network delay, as well as a reduction in braking at signals and unnecessary signal stops. There were also minor improvements in other measures of network performance. Overall, researchers concluded that “deploying both ABS and PTC systems together could reduce the national network delay by 79 percent.” Researchers also made recommendations for areas of further research.

The research results, An Automation Awareness Assistant for Automated Train Operations, describe how a team from Monterey Technologies designed a locomotive cab user-interface concept to help improve human operators’ awareness of automated rail functionality. The concept, called Automation Awareness Assistant (A3), is meant to help reduce human error related to rail systems design and therefore reduce the likelihood of accidents. The prototype was successfully tested at the FRA’s Cab Technology Integration Laboratory (CTIL) and is available for evaluation and further refinement.


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USDOT Among Agencies to be Affected if Partial Government Shut Down Begins March 2

The federal government is again on the verge of a shutdown as funding for several key agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, is set to expire at midnight on March 1. Funding for the remaining federal agencies and programs will expire a week later, at midnight on March 9.

Lawmakers need to pass 12 spending bills, and they are still hopeful that they could pass all four spending bills by this Friday and do the same with the remaining eight bills before next week’s deadline. Other potential outcomes include the passage of another short-term continuing resolution – the fourth since the end of the fiscal year in Sept. 2023 – passage of a long-term continuing resolution to keep funding at their current levels until the end of fiscal year 2024 or a government shutdown.

The Department of Transportation, as with other agencies, has outlined its operation plan in the event of a shutdown. The document, first published in Sept. 2023 and most recently updated in November, includes information such as the number of employees to be furloughed in the case of a funding lapse and the agency activities that will continue or cease.

For the Federal Railroad Administration, work related to safety and general oversight, including investigations and inspections, would continue according to the FRA, but certain work related to grants and research and development, among other things, would slow down or stop completely.


ASLRRA Welcomes New CABT Director of Advocacy

The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT) recently hired Emily DeLuca, the organization’s new director of advocacy. ASLRRA works with several advocacy groups on Capitol Hill, including CABT, which advocates against any regulations allowing increases in freight truck length or weight.

DeLuca brings a decade of advocacy experience to CABT, with a background spanning federal and state government policy, political campaigns, Congress member office operations, field programs and coalition building. She will focus on building Hill relationships, working with and engaging national partners, and communications.


ASLRRA 2024 Railroad Day Registration


New Members

Know a company that would benefit from joining and participating in ASLRRA? Please contact ASLRRA’s Senior Vice President of Membership and Business Development Kathy Keeney via email or on (202) 585-3439.

ASLRRA Welcomes Three Associate Business Members

Miller Air Starter Company (MASCO), based in Dallas, Texas, manufactures air starting solutions for large diesel & natural gas engines. It is a leading provider of Ingersoll Rand and TDI air starting systems, parts, and components used to start critical engines. MASCO also specializes in air starters for EMD locomotive and marine engines. Director, Business Development Theron Morrow is our primary contact and can be reached on (281) 788-8757.

Learn more about MASCO by visiting Booth #740 in the expo hall at our March annual conference in Kansas City or visit Many thanks to Hatch & Kirk’s John Gravenkemper for recommending that they join.


SDAC Rail Services LLC, based in Montgomery, Alabama, specializes in new track construction and maintenance of way for industrial railways and short line railroads. The SDAC team’s strengths include rail services, design/build solutions, industrial, civil and heavy utilities construction, facilities maintenance, management, and support. Its talented staff, diversified background, client-first approach, and high-bonding capacity empower it to win large-scale contracts at military installations, government sites, utilities and railroad facilities throughout the U.S. Our primary contact is Director of Rail Operations Aaron Wasser, who can be reached on (205) 237-7698.

Learn more about SDAC by visiting Booth #1027 in the expo hall at our March annual conference in Kansas City. Many thanks to Birmingham Rail & Locomotive’s Nick Bousquet for recommending that they join.



Warsaw Tool Company, LLC, based in Warsaw, New York, offers consulting to the railroad industry. Owner Christian Henrici is our primary contact and can be reached on (585) 698-9791.






Grants and Funding

FRA Releases Updated Grants Calendar

A newly updated discretionary grants calendar from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) provides an overview of important dates related to upcoming FRA funding opportunities.

The calendar notes the month in which grant notices of funding opportunity (NOFO) are expected to be released; the duration of the application period and application evaluation period; and the month award announcements are expected.

Of note, the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant NOFO is expected in March, with a 60-day application period and awards announced near the end of October. The Rail-Crossing Elimination program NOFO should be released in May, applicants will have 75 days to make their submissions, and awardees will be notified in December.

ASLRRA reminds its members that they can receive a debrief on an unsuccessful fiscal year 2022 CRISI application via email. Contact the FRA for a debrief here:


From Recorded Webinars to Conference Education Sessions, ASLRRA Offers Grant Assistance in Various Forms


ASLRRA Scholarships



ASLRRA Members Can Access Background Screening Services Through ISB Global Services

ISB Global Services (ISB) provides ASLRRA railroad and supplier members with a suite of background screening products and services, allowing them to gather appropriate and accurate information while remaining compliant with privacy legislation. Members can access product details and members-only pricing by logging in to ASLRRA’s Member Discount webpage.

ASLRRA is actively seeking additional preferred providers of background screening services as well as railroad software and equipment.  For information, on ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program, contact ASLRRA Senior Vice President, Education and Business Services Sabrina Waiss.


Railroad Workplace Safety (Part 214) Online Training Program Now Available

Short line railroads now have the capability to train and assess employees on Railroad Workplace Safety (Part 214) using an online training program available through the Short Line Training Center’s Learning Management System (LMS).  This critical program will familiarize workers with the requirements of 49 CFR Part 214, FRA Railroad Workplace Safety standards, designed to prevent accidents and casualties to employees involved in certain railroad inspection, maintenance and construction activities. 

Built using the latest technology and incorporating interactive tools to engage learners, railroads may use the Part 214 program for both initial classroom training and refresher training for employees. The training program is currently available to railroads using the Short Line Training Center LMS, a platform built and operated collaboratively by ASLRRA and Iowa Northern Railway Company (IANR).  Railroads using another LMS platform may license and access the ASLRRA/IANR training programs through a cloud hosting service.

Railroad Workplace Safety is the first of 30 regulatory training programs being developed over a five-year period with funding from an FRA CRISI grant. Learn more about industry training and resources available from the Short Line Training Center or contact ASLRRA SVP, Education and Business Services, Sabrina Waiss for more information and pricing.


Registration Open for ASLRRA’s Advanced DSLE and Railroad Operating Rules Seminar

ASLRRA has added a fifth training seminar to its slate of offerings, with registration now open for participants. The Association’s Advanced DSLE and Railroad Operating Rules (Part 217) seminar will take place June 4 to 5 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Iowa Northern Railway Company Vice President and COO Mark Vaughn and ASLRRA Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar will lead the training, which will provide railroad managers with instruction on DSLE responsibilities, including application and administration of 49 CFR Part 240 and Part 242 similarities and differences, and Part 217 railroad operating rules.

The advanced DSLE training is one of seven regulatory-specific training seminars ASLRRA is offering in 2024, and employees of small railroads could be eligible for a Golden Scholarship or a Jake Jacobson Scholarship to help cover the cost of attendance.  ASLRRA has received nearly $40,000 to provide scholarships to employees of small railroads, defined as those earning $10 Million or less in annual revenue.  The online application process comprises a simple online form and scholarships are awarded to qualified candidates on a rolling basis throughout the year. 


Complete FRA Forms by Tomorrow to be Eligible for ASLRRA’s Jake Safety Awards

All members must be current on their 2023 Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) accident/incident report filings by Feb. 29 to be eligible for ASLRRA's Jake Safety Awards. 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 Short Line Training Center



On-Demand Webinars

Further Railroad Knowledge Any Time With On-Demand Webinars

ASLRRA offers almost 200 webinar recordings in its On-Demand Webinar Library, covering a wide range of topics from regulatory compliance to environmental programs to the grant application process. Members can access these webinars at any time, making them perfect for squeezing in educational opportunities whenever and wherever possible.

Most of the recordings also have a copy of the accompanying PDF presentation available for download. Visit ASLRRA’s webinar homepage and log in to view all the on-demand offerings in the Association’s webinar library.


Click here to learn more about our education offerings.


Industry News and Events

North Carolina DOT Report Highlights Importance of State Rail System

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) released a report showing the impact of the state’s rail system on its economy. The report examines how different rail sectors, freight, passenger and tourist railroads, affect North Carolina.

Overall, the state’s rail system contributes over $20 billion to its economy and supports 88,000 jobs. Two Class I railroads and 24 short lines operate in the state, with short lines accounting for 20 percent of the economic output along and within North Carolina’s direct rail corridor.

When discussing freight rail, the report notes how railroads keep local communities connected to the larger supply chain and serve to attract certain industries to these areas. The connection between rail and state ports is also mentioned as a key economic driver, while the ability of rail to move certain types of cargo not able to be shipped by truck “provides intangible benefits that support other state and national industries.”

NCDOT also talks about the benefits of shipping by rail instead of truck, which the report says “reduces vehicle miles traveled (VMT), fuel consumption, wear on roadway infrastructure, and creates a safer, less congested road network.” There is also an environmental benefit to taking trucks off the road. The report estimates that if all the cargo shipped by rail were moved to trucks, it would incur an additional $1.9 million in annual emissions costs and $2.6 million in annual pavement costs, not to mention the 21.8 million truck miles that would be needed to move the 85.1 million freight tons transported by rail annually. Moreover, shipping 85.1 million freight tons by rail requires 170,164 gallons of fuel, whereas it would take 510,492 gallons of fuel to move that same cargo by truck.


Nominations Being Accepted for Industry Publication Awards

Both Progressive Railroading magazine and Railway Age magazine are accepting nominations for industry awards. Nominations for the Progressive Railroading Rising Stars 2024 awards are due March 8, while nominations for Railway Age’s Most Influential Industry Leaders readers’ poll are due April 10.

The Rising Stars awards recognize individuals in the North American railroad industry who have had a positive impact on their organizations and are considered up-and-coming industry leaders. Winners will be recognized at a summer ceremony and featured in the September issue of Progressive Railroading.

The Most Influential Industry Leaders poll invites readers to nominate and then vote on influential, non-retired individuals in the rail industry. Nominees can come from a variety of rail entities, including suppliers, contractors, trade associations and government agencies, and must be part of the U.S., Canadian or Mexican rail industries. Self-nominations will not be considered.


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.