Views & News - April 3, 2024

Views & News

Issue Highlights:

Regulatory – FAMES Committee issues new safety alert

Legislative – Register for Railroad Day on Capitol Hill

Annual Conference – Annual Conference numbers set records

Grants & Funding – USDOT accepting applications for MPDG funding program

Industry News & Events – SLSI publishes Safety Tip



Short Line Notable News

In this section, we showcase short line industry stories published in local media. 


Genesee & Wyoming marks 125th anniversary of its namesake short line railroad

Cathcart Rail plans $10M+ expansion, creating new jobs in Kansas City

Reading & Northern Nesquehoning campus seen as an engine of growth

Bombs Away! State, Railroad Test Drone-Driven Avalanche Mitigation


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.

Combined FY23 and FY24 CRISI Grant Program Accepting Applications Until May 28

Over $2.4 billion in grant funding for fiscal years 2023 and 2024 will be available through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, applications for which are due May 28.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued its CRISI notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) on March 29. Short line railroads are directly eligible for this grant program, which helps fund a wide variety of projects in addition to infrastructure improvements, such as those reducing locomotive emissions, preventing trespassing and pursuing workforce development initiatives.

To help CRISI applicants, the FRA will be holding several informational webinars. The first takes place April 9 and offers an overview of the NOFO, including discussing best practices for creation of the project narrative, statement of work and benefit-cost analysis. Click here to register for the webinar.

The FRA’s CRISI website offers more information about the program and provides links to additional resources. ASLRRA also has a CRISI website to help members with the application process. Attendees of last week’s ASLRRA Annual Conference can access materials from several CRISI-focused educational sessions through links included in a conference takeaways email sent yesterday, while recorded webinars on CRISI can be found in the Association’s On-Demand Webinar Library.

And organizations seeking more personalized assistance can take advantage of ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program, which features grant writing Preferred Provider Colliers Engineering & Design. Colliers offers discounted rates, industry expertise, and exceptional service to ASLRRA members. 


FRA Releases Final Two-Person Crew Size Rule

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a final rule mandating a two-person crew for major railroads on most routes. The rule provides some exceptions for certain railroad operations and establishes an approval process for railroads looking to start certain new one-person crew operations. 

According to the FRA’s press release, the final rule is somewhat different from the initial notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), particularly “in how it treats freight railroads, especially Class II and III freight railroads.” The FRA claims Class II or III railroads with legacy one-person-crew freight operations as defined by the rule can continue using one-person crews as long as the railroads comply with stated additional requirements.

Exceptions for passenger and tourist train operations, freight operations and special approval petition requirements are covered in sections 218.125 through 218.131. ASLRRA is reviewing the rule carefully to determine its effects on short line railroads and their customers.


Irwin Car Paid Sponsorship

Thanks to Irwin Car and Equipment for sponsoring this week's edition of Views & News



FAMES Committee Issues Safety Alert Concerning Roadway Maintenance Machines

The Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) Committee issued a safety alert urging roadway workers to be vigilant around roadway maintenance machines (RMM). There have been three fatalities since December 2021 involving an RMM striking a roadway worker.

In all of the accidents the RMM was operating in reverse and the RMM operator did not see the employee behind the machine. The alert also notes each accident involved a lack of communication between the roadway worker and RMM operator, with the operator unaware that a worker had entered the space behind the machine.

The FAMES Committee offers several recommendations to improve safety, including encouraging checks of RMM back-up alarms and reminding roadway workers to tell the nearest RMM operators in both directions when they will foul the track.

ASLRRA publishes safety alerts and other industry safety notifications on its website. Click here to view information from the FAMES Committee, the Switching and Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).


FRA Study Examines Tank Car Impacts and Punctures

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently published a study meant to help improve railroad tank car safety by understanding the mechanics behind tank impacts and punctures.

The Next Generation Tank Car Project (NGRTC) developed the finite element analysis (FEA) capability used for the study. The study tested different sizes and shapes of impactors, angle of impact, puncture forces and different tank conditions and car designs.

Understanding how to improve tank cars to better withstand severe accidents is an ongoing effort by the FRA. In addition to helping the FRA understand how different types of impacts affect different tank cars, the study enabled development of algorithms for future tank car analyses.


FRA Publishes Civil Penalties List With Adjusted Amounts

An updated table from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) lists civil penalties for various violations, adjusted for inflation. The new penalties were effective on April 1.

The table is available in PDF form, or can be downloaded as an Excel file. The Excel file includes a separate tab for each section of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) that features adjusted civil penalties, while the PDF version combines each section in one document.


ASLRRA-Member Chair Appointed to New STB Committee

Henry Posner III, chairman of ASLRRA member Iowa Interstate Railroad, will be the Class II or III Railroad Representative on the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) newly formed Passenger Rail Advisory Committee (PRAC).

STB Chairman Martin Oberman recently announced the appointment of 21 individuals to the PRAC, representing different facets of the rail industry and its stakeholders. The committee members come from a number of different public and private organizations and will serve to advise the STB on issue related to passenger rail service.

Posner is the PRAC’s sole short line railroad representative. Other PRAC members who are employees at ASLRRA-member companies include James Derwinski of Metra, Gregg Baxter of Herzog Enterprises, Joseph Black of WSP and Carl Warren of the North Carolina Railroad Company.


ASLRRA GCOR Training May 2024


News from RRB Includes New Q&A and Announcement of Rasputnis Appointment

In the April edition of its Question and Answer (Q&A) series, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) explains why certain annuitants should pay attention to changes in tax withholding when they turn 62.

The RRB describes how annuitants who retire at 60 with at least 30 years of creditable rail service have their benefits split after age 62 into a Social Security Equivalent Benefit (SSEB) portion and a Non-Social Security Equivalent Benefit (NSSEB) portion. This split affects tax withholding that could result in too little taxes being withheld.

The RRB informs annuitants when their withholding amount changes, and encourages them to speak with a tax advisor or IRS representative about the correct amount they should be withholding from their annuity payments.

In addition to the latest Q&A, the RRB announced it has appointed Jebby Rasputnis the agency’s new deputy director of programs. She will work with Director of Programs Arturo Cardenas to oversee agency operations concerning processing and payment of RRB-administered benefits. Prior to joining the RRB, Rasputnis was serving with the Social Security Administration.


Railway Supply Institute Petitions STB to Reconsider Arbitration Rule

On March 25 the Railway Supply Institute (RSI) petitioned the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for a review of current rules that the organization claims disincentivizes construction of new boxcars, resulting in an alarming decline in the U.S. boxcar fleet.

The RSI is asking the STB to terminate previous approval of the car hire Arbitration Rule, which occurred in 1994 under the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), predecessor to the STB. The RSI argues that the rule is “a major culprit in the decline” of the nation’s boxcars because it “keeps leasing rates paid by railroads for boxcars artificially low and therefore reduces incentives for new construction.”

A copy of the RSI’s petition is available here. The organization has also set up a website dedicated to this issue, which the RSI has dubbed the “The Boxcar Cliff.”



Register for Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, Happening May 8

The next big event on ASLRRA’s calendar is Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, when railroad industry representatives and stakeholders travel to Washington, D.C. to speak with elected officials and congressional offices about important freight rail issues.

Individuals can register now to attend Railroad Day, which will take place May 8. The event features breakfast and materials pickup, a day of congressional meetings and an evening reception. It is open to all Class I, II, and III railroad personnel, shippers and members from the supplier community.

A coalition of railroad industry associations including the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC), the Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association (REMSA), the Railway Systems Suppliers, Inc. (RSSI), the Railway Tie Association (RTA), the Railway Supply Institute (RSI) and GoRail are supporting and participating in Railroad Day. Members of these associations are also invited to register for the event.

ASLRRA is also welcoming Railroad Day sponsors. Click here to learn more about becoming a sponsor, or contact ASLRRA Vice President, Meetings Amy Westerman.


ASLRRA Short Line Training Center


Annual Conference

ASLRRA’s 2024 Annual Conference Sets Records

ASLRRA Conference Collage

Images captured during ASLRRA's Annual Conference include (clockwise from top left) an excited group at the Wi-Tronix booth in the Exhibit Hall; closeup of the audience in Monday's general session; presentation of the 2024 Environmental Award; a wide view of the audience in the general session; education session presenter Victoria Bradshaw of Fletcher & Sippel, LLC; general session featured speaker Major General Gavin Lawrence.


Attendance at ASLRRA’s 2024 Annual Conference was the third highest ever, and the Association had a sold-out exhibit hall at an event that also featured over 90 subject-matter and industry experts providing nearly 50 hours of education on a variety of rail-related topics.

The Association and conference attendees also honored recipients of ASLRRA’s annual awards. These included:

Conference attendees received an email yesterday with links to education session presentation materials, an attendee list, video highlights and event photos. ASLRRA is grateful to all the sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, speakers and attendees who helped make this year’s conference one of the best yet.

Save the date for ASLRRA’s next Annual Conference, which will take place April 6 to 8, 2025 in Denver. Colorado.


ASLRRA conference by the numbers


Grants and Funding

ASLRRA Grant Resources


USDOT Publishes Notice of Funding Opportunity for MPDG Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the publication of a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant (MPDG) program, which includes $5.1 billion in funding across three programs.

MPDG streamlines the grant process by allowing a single application to be considered for three funding opportunities: the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Megaprogram, the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program and the Rural Surface Transportation Grant (Rural) program. Of the available $5.1 billion in MPDG funding, $1.7 billion is allotted for Mega, $2.7 billion goes to INFRA and the remaining $780 million is set aside for Rural.

Railroad companies are not directly eligible for MPDG grants, but can partner with an eligible entity, like a state or local government, to apply. ASLRRA member projects generally are a best match for INFRA grants, which, in part, help pay for projects that improve the movement of freight. The Mega program is meant for large, complex projects while the Rural program funds highway, bridge or tunnel projects in rural areas.

Click here to view the MPDG NOFO. The MPDG home page also includes a variety of resources for potential applicants.


ASLRRA Railroad Day 2024



Claim One of the Few Last Spots in ASLRRA’s May GCOR Training Seminar

Limited spaces are available in ASLRRA’s May 7 to 9 training seminar focused on General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR). The seminar takes place in Waterloo, Iowa.

ASLRRA Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar and Iowa Northern Railway Company Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Vaughn will lead the seminar, which will provide comprehensive training on the GCOR and can be used to fulfill operating rules training requirements under 49 CFR Part 240, 242 and 214 Subpart C.

The Association will offer other training seminars throughout the spring and summer. Registration is already full for April’s drug and alcohol training and the DSLE seminar in early June. Those who had hoped to attend these sessions can still sign up to be on an event waitlist. While space remains in the other seminars, interested participants are encouraged to register soon.

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


Brewer Re-elected to ASLRRA Board Seat

Congratulations to Lucas Brewer of Colliers Engineering & Design on his re-election to the ASLRRA Board of Directors for a second term representing supplier members. The election results were announced at last week’s annual conference in Kansas City.

Brewer is geographic discipline leader, rail for Colliers and is active in several ASLRRA committees and a frequent speaker at Association events. His employer is a preferred provider of grant writing services in ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program.


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 program will familiarize workers with the requirements of 49 CFR Part 214, FRA Railroad Workplace Safety standards, and is designed to prevent accidents and casualties to employees involved in certain railroad inspection, maintenance and construction activities. 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 Senior Vice President, Education and Business Services Sabrina Waiss for more information and pricing.


Out and About

Staff Shorts: Who’s Where in the Railroad World

This week, JR Gelnar traveled to Deadwood, South Dakota to participate in the Outback Railroad Association’s Annual Safety and Training Conference and Tradeshow. Gelnar provided a regulatory update to attendees. Also participating were representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Short Line Safety Institute.


Before the ASLRRA Annual Conference, Chuck Baker participated in a Surface Transportation Board (STB) Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council (RSTAC) train ride in Chicago, Illinois. The group also toured a CN derailment training center. That week Baker also spoke to individuals from the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association who were in Washington, D.C. to participate in advocacy meetings on Capitol Hill.




Chuck Baker participated in an STB RSTAC train ride that included a group tour and demonstrations at a CN training center in Chicago.


On-Demand Webinars

ASLRRA’s Recorded Legal Webinars Cover a Variety of Topics

The legal category in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library includes several presentations by subject-matter experts. Look for the following titles:

  • Section 889: Protecting the Security of the Railroad Supply Chain
  • Encroachments & Trespass: On the Railroad, It's All About Property
  • Utility Crossings and Broadband Deployment
  • Concerns Over Utility Crossings of Railroad Tracks

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

SLSI Publishes New Safety Tip

SLSI Publishes New Safety Tip

The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) has published a new Safety Tip focused on Training – one of the 10 core elements used to determine a strong safety culture, as defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation Safety Council, and adopted by the SLSI.

The new Safety Tip identifies five steps to creating an effective training program for initial and ongoing training and six ideas for ensuring that employees are understanding the training delivered on your railroad.

In addition to safety tips, SLSI’s website offers a variety of other educational materials and resources at no cost to railroads. Click here to view them.

Want to be notified of new materials available from the Short Line Safety Institute? Join their e-mail list by clicking here and completing the form toward the bottom of the SLSI homepage.


FHWA to Hold Talking Freight Webinar on April 9

On April 9, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will host another episode in its webinar series titled “Talking Freight.” The focus of this webinar will be freight and equity considerations.

Webinar speakers include Christopher Lindsey of Cambridge Systematics, Gerry Bogacz and Leslie Fordjour of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) and Eric Lopez of the City of Long Beach. Click here to register for the webinar.


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.