Views & News - May 1, 2024

Views & News

Issue Highlights:



Short Line Notable News

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


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.

Record Number of Lawmakers Sign Letter Demonstrating Significant Bipartisan Support for Full CRISI Funding

A record 140 lawmakers in the House of Representatives signed a letter to House Transportation, Housing, Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) Subcommittee Chair Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Ranking Member Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) calling for full funding of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program in the fiscal year 2025 THUD appropriations bill.

Representatives from 41 states and the District of Columbia, 95 Democrats and 45 Republicans, signed the letter, which was led by Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas).

The letter emphasized the importance of the CRISI program. The program has generated $2.9 billion in investments in 48 states, helping railroads create jobs, strengthen the supply chain, mitigate congestion and improve overall safety and efficiency of operations.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has described CRISI as the agency’s most popular, oversubscribed competitive grant program. ASLRRA, its members and other rail stakeholders are eager to see CRISI funded at its fully authorized amount to allow the program to better meet demand.


ASLRRA 2024 Training Seminars



STB Issues Reciprocal Switching Final Rule

Yesterday, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced it has adopted its reciprocal switching final rule under 49 CFR Part 1145.

The STB limited rule requirements to Class I carriers, noting in the rule text that “the Board has not received as many informal or formal complaints about smaller carriers” and “data collection may be more burdensome for Class II and Class III rail carriers.”

STB Chair Martin Oberman issued a statement on the final rule, which is available here, and the text of the final rule is available here.

ASLRRA does not expect this rule to have an appreciable impact on short line traffic, service or operations. The Association submitted comments on the rule in December when it was a proposed regulation.


ASLRRA Signs Letter Concerning Renewable Fuel Testing Standard Volumes

ASLRRA joined eight other trade associations in a letter sent to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan calling on the EPA to propose and finalize the 2026 Renewable Fuel Standard volumes by the November deadline.

The RFS establishes volume requirements for renewable fuels, with the previous rule published in 2023 and setting volume targets for 2023, 2024 and 2025. The letter argues that the volumes in the 2023-2025 rule are too low, which has had and will further have a negative effect on the domestic renewable fuels industry.

The letter notes the importance of sustainable biofuels to protecting consumers from rising fuel costs, supporting farmers and food producers and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Administrator Regan and the EPA are urged to not only finalize the RFS rule on time but to propose robust RFS volumes.

Many ASLRRA members work with shippers who handle biofuels or the products used to make biofuels. Spearheading the letter was the Clean Fuels Alliance, while other signatories included the American Soybean Association, American Trucking Associations, Association of American Railroads, National Energy and Fuels Institute, National Oilseed Processors Association, North American Renderers Association and U.S. Canola Association.


FRA Technical Report Explores Engineered-Polymer Composite Rail Ties

A technical report recently published by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) examines ways to improve polymer composite railroad tie performance.

Engineered-polymer composite (EPC) ties are an alternative to timber ties in places prone to rot and decay, but issues with tie performance and quality in revenue service prompted the FRA and Association of American Railroads (AAR) to sponsor the study discussed in the report. The study’s goal was to understand factors affecting EPC tie performance and develop improved EPC tie design, testing and performance guidelines and criteria.

Testing identified two primary sources of failure for EPC ties: spike-hole cracking and center cracking. The research team used this information to develop a laboratory fatigue test addressing center cracking. Future research is needed for a test for spike-hole cracking.

The study also identified ways temperature swings affect EPC ties. Recommendations for future research include studies into the thermal properties of EPC materials and thermal effects on EPC tie in-track performance.


STB Chair Oberman Announces Official Retirement Date

Surface Transportation Board Chair Martin Oberman announced he will officially retire on May 10.

In a press release, Oberman said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the United States as Board member and Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board. I leave government service with the greatest respect for the work of the Board and for the agency staff, who have an unrelenting commitment to public service.”

“Chairman Oberman has been a strong partner for the short line industry, inviting numerous stakeholders to the table through individual meetings and more formal hearings and Committee meetings so that the Board would understand the nuanced consequences of any proposed actions. His insatiable curiosity has only been matched by his relentless work ethic. We have appreciated his candor, his leadership, and his successful efforts to build better rules through consensus. Those efforts can only be successful with a Board full of committed public servants, and that tone has to be set from the top, which Marty accomplished with aplomb,” said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.

Oberman stated in November that he would not be seeking renomination to a second term on the board. He was sworn in as an STB member in 2019 and designated chair in 2021. Until President Joe Biden chooses a new permanent chairperson, current Vice Chair Karen Hedlund will serve as acting chair.



Several Events on Capitol Hill This Week With Possible Discussion of Issues Affecting Short Lines

ASLRRA will be watching five Capitol Hill events this week, two each in the House and Senate focused on budgets for the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency and a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee executive session to consider presidential nominations.

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee held a hearing on the fiscal year 2025 (FY25) Department of Transportation budget request, with Secretary Pete Buttigieg testifying as the sole witness. During the hearing, Representative David Valadao (R-Calif.) brought up the California Air Resources Board (CARB) In-Use Locomotive Regulation with Secretary Buttigieg, describing concerns about how the rule could harm the national supply chain.

Also yesterday, the House Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee held a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s FY25 budget. Toward the end of the hearing Representative Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) asked EPA Administrator Michael Regan if the agency could commit to careful consideration of CARB’s request for an exemption for its rule, as well as the thousands of comments submitted on the matter.

Zinke noted the strong opposition to CARB’s rule from a wide variety of groups and pointed out how the interconnected nature of the rail network means a rule in California would have implications for businesses in the representative’s home state of Montana. In response to Zinke’s question, Administrator Regan affirmed the EPA’s commitment to thorough review prior to making a decision.

Today the Senate Appropriation’s respective subcommittees held hearings on FY25 budgets for the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency. Both Secretary Buttigieg and Administrator Regan testified on behalf of their agencies.

Also today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation considered the nominations for reappointments of Jennifer Homendy as chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and Patrick Fuchs as a member of the Surface Transportation Board. Both Homendy and Fuchs were unanimously advanced out of the committee.


ASLRRA 2024 Central Pacific Region Meeting Save the Date


New Members

On April 19, Representative Eric Burlison (R-Mo.) introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval to nullify the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) final rule mandating two-person train crews.


ASLRRA Welcomes State Tractor as Associate Business Member

state tractor logo

State Tractor, based in Shawnee, Kansas, is an asset-based trucking company specializing in rail-bound, precast and steel beam/girders, as well as project hauling and consulting. They are also the Sany equipment dealer in the Kansas City area. The company, which had a booth at ASLRRA’s 2024 Annual Conference, prides itself on being “the guys that get things done when others drop the ball.” Vice President Travis Dale is our primary contact and can be reached on (913) 334-1075.


Grants and Funding


CRISI Applications Are Due in 27 Days!


ASLRRA Grant Resources


ASLRRA 2024 Eastern Southern Region Meeting Save the Date



Preferred Provider ISB Global Services Offers Background Screening to ASLRRA Members


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.

Companies can use ISB as a one-stop shop for employment screening services including employment history verification, education and professional credential verification, domestic terrorism watchlist searches, motor vehicle records search and more. ISB is also able to provide cargo loss and supply chain security tools and mobile identity verification for secure access to facilities.

Members can learn more about ISB and other Preferred Providers at ASLRRA’s Member Discount webpage. For information on ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program, contact ASLRRA Senior Vice President, Education and Business Services Sabrina Waiss.


Attend an ASLRRA Training Seminar to Learn from Industry- and Subject-Matter Experts

ASLRRA is still accepting registrations for its July and August training seminars focused on workplace safety and railroad accidents and incidents.

These seminars are:

ASLRRA’s Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar will be a presenter at both seminars, where he will be joined by experts from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Railroad professionals looking to bolster their understanding of industry safety requirements 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.




Out and About

ASLRRA Staff Talk About Rail Issues in Recent Publications

Chuck Baker was interviewed for an Agri-Pulse article on the effects California’s In-Use Locomotive Regulation would have on small railroads. He explained how the rule “would be a death knell” for some short lines in California, bankrupting them and forcing them out of business. The article provided a general overview of how agricultural interests are united with railroads in opposition to the locomotive rule, while also discussing why various organizations are against or for it.

Mike Ogborn spoke with a reporter for Colorado business website The Sum & Substance about the state’s pending rail regulation House Bill 1030. The bill, which sponsors say is meant to improve railroad safety, has already passed the Colorado House and is being considered in the state Senate. Ogborn talks about the burdens the bill will impose on the state’s short line railroads, including levying severe fines and requiring insurance coverage that would be difficult for small railroads to manage.



Upcoming Webinars

May 13, 2024 – FRA Accident/Incident Reporting: Special Study Block

As of last December, carriers are to discontinue collecting data on crude oil and continuous welded rail and begin collecting Train Length (SSB 1) and Number of Crew in the Cab (SSB2). FRA has corrected an erroneous instruction that still referred to crude oil and has been communicating through their Safety Management Teams and through their contractor to coach railroads on the changes. They are seeing improvement in the reporting but are asking carriers to go back through earlier reports to make any corrections. Carriers have had some questions about the fields such as what types of movements are to be reported and how RCL are handled. These questions will be addressed in this webinar.

Presented by: Andy Martin, Program Analyst, FRA; Rob Siegfried, Program Analyst, FRA; Stuart Gluck, Ph.D. Director, Office of Industry Data and Economic Analysis, FRA


On-Demand Webinars

Learn About Crisis Communications Any Time With On-Demand Webinars

ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library includes a Communications category with recordings that cover topics such as crisis communications and social media use. Follow this link to find webinars presented by subject-matter experts, including:

  • Crisis Communications Fundamentals for Railroaders
  • Not in my Backyard: Responding/Reacting to NIMBYism in the Community
  • Using Social Media as a Business Development Tool

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

Progressive Railroading Announces 25 Rising Stars

Progressive Railroading magazine announced the winners of this year’s Rising Stars Awards, recognizing 25 individuals in the North American railroad industry who are seen as up-and-coming leaders.

The winners were chosen from nearly 200 nominations, recognized for their “contributions to railroading, as well as their career achievements, demonstrated leadership, professional association activity and community involvement.” Profiles of each winner will be featured on the Progressive Railroading website and in the magazine’s September print issue. They will also be recognized in a virtual ceremony held this summer.

Of the 25 winners, ten are employees at ASLRRA-member companies. The Association congratulates all this year’s Rising Stars.

The ASLRRA-member employee honorees are:

  • Gene Barber, R. J. Corman Railroad Group
  • Robert Bullock, Florida East Coast Railway
  • Cory Carmichall, Missouri Eastern Railroad
  • Clay Congleton, Railinc
  • Andrew Davis, DavRail Inc.
  • Cory De Kruyf, The Greenbrier Cos.
  • Patrick Garneau, AECOM
  • Kyle Hnatiuk, A&B Railroad Co.
  • Shae LeDune, The Indiana Rail Road Co.
  • Brenton MacDonald, Sierra Northern Railway


Railway Age Names Readers’ Influential Leaders

Readers of Railway Age magazine have chosen whom they believe are the 2024 Influential Leaders in the railroad industry. Ten winners and three honorable mention recipients will be featured in the magazine’s May issue.

Railway Age subscribers nominated and then voted on individuals who are currently working in the North American rail industry, including those from supplier organizations and government agencies. Of this year’s honorees, three winners are executives at ASLRRA-member companies, as are all of the honorable mention recipients. ASLRRA congratulates all of this year’s winners, especially:

  • Percy Fields, President and General Manager, The Belt Railway Company of Chicago
  • Alan Fisher, Group Vice President, Logistics, Analytics and Digital Mine, Wabtec Digital Intelligence
  • Marco Loureiro, Chief Operating Officer, RailPros

Honorable mentions

  • Matthew Dick, Chief of Strategy and Development, ENSCO
  • Mike G. Hart, Chief Executive Officer, Sierra Railroad Company
  • Lorie Tekorius, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Greenbrier Companies


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.