Views & News - May 15, 2024

Views & News

Issue Highlights:

  • Headlines– View more pictures from last week’s Railroad Day on Capitol Hill
  • Regulatory – ASLRRA’s updates to its Part 217 program template now available online
  • Legislative – Lawmakers send letter about CARB concerns to EPA’s Regan
  • Industry News & Events – SLSI publishes new Safety Tip



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 Senators Send Letter Calling for Robust CRISI Funding

A record-breaking 31 senators have signed a letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) demonstrating strong bipartisan support for robust funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program.

The letter to THUD Chair Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Ranking Member Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) was signed by 24 Democrats, five Republicans and two Independents. The signatories asked the committee to consider President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2025 budget request of $250 million for CRISI a baseline number, writing that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides $1 billion in advance appropriations and allows for an additional $1 billion in authorizations.

The letter notes the value of the CRISI program and how it has “enhanced the overall safety and efficiency of our Nation’s rail systems” while further helping bolster the economy, particularly in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors. The letter goes on to point out that 48 states have benefited from the CRISI program.

Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) led the letter. Other senators who signed are:

  • Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.)
  • Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
  • Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
  • Cory Booker (D-N.J.)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
  • Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
  • Chris Coons (D-Del.)
  • Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)
  • Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
  • Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)
  • Angus King (I-Maine)
  • Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
  • Ed Markey (D- Mass.)
  • Roger Marshall (R-Kan.)
  • Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.)
  • Alex Padilla (D-Calif.)
  • Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
  • Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.)
  • Tina Smith (D-Minn.)
  • Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)
  • Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
  • Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.)
  • Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
  • Peter Welch (D-Vt.)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
  • Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)


View Photos From Railroad Day on Capitol Hill

Last week’s Railroad Day on Capitol Hill event featured 308 participants visiting 270 congressional offices. Participants shared rail industry views on a number of issues, talking about rail’s continually improving rail safety record and voicing concerns about the California Air Resources Board (CARB) In-Use Locomotive Regulation and any truck size and weight increases.

Participants also provided ASLRRA’s government affairs team with valuable feedback to help guide current and future advocacy efforts, including future fly-in events. The Association is also working to meet with offices that were unable to participate in Railroad Day on May 8 but are still interested in discussing railroad issues.

ASLRRA appreciates all those who helped spread the news about Railroad Day on social media and who shared pictures with the Association’s communications team. Find a gallery of images on ASLRRA’s Railroad Day on Capitol Hill website here.



ASLRRA Updates Part 217 Compliance Templates

ASLRRA has updated some of its compliance templates for 49 CFR Part 217, which concerns railroad operating rules. Members can access an updated regulatory program introductory information checklist and an updated operational tests and inspections program template by logging in here.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is now conducting Part 217 audits with audits for Parts 240 and 242 concerning qualification and certification of locomotive engineers and conductors. ASLRRA Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar recommends railroads review the updated program. Those with questions can contact Gelnar via email at


STB Seeks Small Railroad Representative for RSTAC

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced a vacancy and solicitation of nominations for a small railroad representative on the Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council (RSTAC). The expiration of the previous small railroad representative’s term led to the vacancy.

Nominations for this position are due June 13. Candidate can self-nominate and nominations may be submitted via e-filing on the Board's website at Submissions will be posted to the Board's website under Docket No. EP 526 (Sub-No. 21).

According to the STB’s notification in the Federal Register, nominations “should be submitted in letter form, identifying the name of the candidate, providing a summary of why the candidate is qualified to serve on RSTAC, and containing representations that the candidate is willing to serve as an RSTAC member effective immediately upon appointment.”

The RSTAC advises the STB chair and other government officials on rail transportation policy issues. The committee comprises 15 members representing small and large shippers and small and large railroads. There are nine voting members, four of which are representatives of Class II or III railroads.


SLSI, FRA Share Results of Research Into Third-Party Support for C3RS Reporting

Research results from the Federal Railroad Administration discuss the test of a new model to allow small railroads to join the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) by using a third-party peer review team to support event analysis. In this test, the Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) served as the third party.

Participants in the C3RS program utilize a Peer Review Team (PRT) to conduct event analysis. Some railroads have such small numbers of employees that they can lack the human resources to conduct event report analysis. Therefore, in this test, SLSI served as the PRT for four short line railroads that volunteered to participate. SLSI analyzed close call reports after they had been processed by NASA to remove any identifying information.

Results from the test showed some challenges, including a lack of detail that complicated thorough event analysis. For example, the SLSI PRT found it difficult at times to understand the railroad’s operating rules and practices which hindered the creation of specific corrective actions for that railroad and had implications for adoption of those recommended actions by the railroad.

The report recommends further collaboration between stakeholders, the FRA, SLSI and railroads to find solutions to challenges identified during the test.


ASLRRA 2024 railroad workplace safety seminar


FRA Issues Updated Table Listing Civil Penalties Schedules and Guidelines

The Federal Railroad Administration issued a May update for its civil penalties schedules and guidelines table.

The table identifies the relevant section of 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), provides a brief description of the violation and lists guideline penalty amounts. The table is available as a PDF document and as a downloadable Microsoft Excel document.


Primus Named STB Chair, Fuchs, Homendy Confirmed by Senate

President Joe Biden has designated Surface Transportation Board (STB) Member Robert Primus the next STB chairman. Primus succeeds retiring chair Martin Oberman, whose last day was May 10.

The designation of Primus as chair was effective May 11. Primus is currently serving his second term on the STB, which expires in 2027.

Yesterday, the Senate confirmed by voice vote Patrick Fuchs as member of the STB and Jennifer Homendy as chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). They were both nominated to second terms in their respective positions.


Technical Reports Discuss Concrete Railroad Ties and Track Inspections

Two technical reports from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) focus on different aspects of railroad tracks. One discusses results of a study on concrete railroad tie freeze-thaw durability, while the second is a supplementary reference document concerning a previous study on railroad track inspections.

The report on concrete railroad ties describes a new performance-based manufacturing control process developed by researchers, which helps ensure freeze-thaw durability of concrete railroad ties. Researchers further recommended changes to the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) concrete railroad tie material and fabrication specifications to reflect study results.

The supplementary reference document accompanies a previous FRA report titled “Reducing Hazards Associated with Visual and Automation-Aided Track Inspections.” This main report examines factors that could lead to hazards during visual and automation-aided track inspections. Researchers studied three track inspection systems using an approach called Systems Theoretic Process Analysis (STPA). The supplementary document, which the FRA advises is not meant to be a standalone report, was published for researchers who might be interested in learning more about STPA and applying the STPA approach to rail systems.


FRA to Discuss Part 225 in July Webinar Series

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is planning to hold a series of webinars in July to share information about changes to 49 CFR Part 225 – Railroad Accidents and Incidents.

The FRA is making changes to Part 225 to update accident and incident data submission options available to railroads. These updates will bring reporting requirements up to date and align them with industry standards.

The webinar series will provide relevant technical information and an overview of key concepts, approaches, and strategies that the FRA is evaluating as part of regulation updates. Those with questions about these changes, the webinars or related issues should contact the FRA at



House Committee Chairs Send Letter to EPA’s Regan Expressing Concerns About CARB Rule

House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Chair Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.) wrote a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan expressing concerns regarding the California Air Resources Board’s In-Use Locomotive Regulation and asking the EPA to respond to questions concerning the regulation and the EPA’s decision-making process.

The four-page letter highlights several points, including the potential impact of the CARB rule on the national rail network and supply chain; ways the rule is preempted by several federal laws; and the financial and operational burdens the rule would place on railroad companies.

The letter goes on to request written answers to eight questions. These questions include whether the EPA will consult with other federal agencies such as the Surface Transportation Board (STB), Department of Agriculture and Department of Defense in deciding to approve a waiver to allow CARB to enact its regulation. The questions also ask about the EPA’s interactions with CARB as CARB was developing the locomotive rule.


Letter to Agriculture Committee Leaders Raises Concerns About Truck Length and Weight

ASLRRA joined 18 other organizations in a letter led by the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks (CABT) to leaders of the House and Senate Committees on Agriculture asking them to reject any language in the upcoming farm bill allowing increased truck length or weight limits on federal highways.

In addition to opposing increased truck length and weight limits, the letter extends its opposition to any so-called pilot programs that would enable state governors to allow increased truck weight limits, as well as the approval of any waivers or exemptions to current federal truck limits. The letter further describes the potential hazards associated with allowing longer, heavier trucks on roads, including the significant damage that would be inflicted on roads and bridges.

Signing the letter with ASLRRA were trucking organizations, labor organizations, various rail associations, the American Public Works Association, National Association of Counties, National Association of County Engineers, National League of Cities, United States Conference of Mayors and others.




Grants and Funding


CRISI Applications Due in 13 Days


ASLRRA Grant Resources



Railroad Workplace Safety (Part 214) Online Training Program Available to Members

Short line railroads 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.


Take Advantage of ASLRRA’s Multiple Summer Training Opportunities

ASLRRA’s training seminars offer railroad professionals a unique opportunity to learn about regulatory compliance from industry experts who are also familiar with the particular operational needs of short lines.

To help railroads learn about and improve workplace safety, ASLRRA is offering a seminar focused on 49 CFR Part 214, which will take place July 9 to 10 in Nashville, Tennessee. A featured subject will be on-track safety program requirements. Seminar presenters JR Gelnar of ASLRRA and Federal Railroad Administration 214 HQ Specialist Tim Presser will also discuss roadway maintenance machines, hi-rail vehicles and roadway worker protection.

Space in this Part 214 seminar is limited, so interested individuals are encouraged to register for the event soon.

ASLRRA is also accepting registration for its Part 225 Railroad Accidents and Incidents seminar, discussing accident/incident reporting and related requirements and available templates, plans and policies. This seminar takes place August 27 to 28 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Although registration is full for the June 4 to 5 DSLE and Railroad Operating Rules training seminar in Nashville, individuals can sign up for a waitlist and will be notified if space in the seminar becomes available. This seminar is presented by ASLRRA’s Gelnar and Mark Vaughn of Iowa Northern Railway Company.

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


ASLRRA Members Save Money with Vetted Preferred Providers

The money saved using ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program Preferred Providers could cover a railroad’s annual dues and then some. ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program leverages the buying power of all Association members to secure discounted pricing on essential business products and services such as personal protective equipment, railroad tie inspections and grant writing services.

Interested in becoming a Preferred Provider? ASLRRA is seeking to add new products and services to its Member Discount Program offerings, and we would like to hear from you! The program is open exclusively to ASLRRA associate business members who are committed to providing exceptional service along with volume discounts to short line railroads. Preferred Providers benefit from a broad range of marketing/promotional activities, including visibility on ASLRRA’s website and in print and electronic communications. Interested companies may contact Sabrina Waiss for more information on becoming a Preferred Provider.  


Out and About

Staff Shorts: Who’s Where in the Railroad World

On May 8, Mike Ogborn spoke at the 2024 Mid-States Highway-Railroad Safety Conference in Overland Park, Kansas.  The conference, which focuses on safety related issues, was attended by 100 officials from transportation departments in seven upper Midwest states.  Ogborn gave an overview of short line and regional railroads and discussed their focus on safety.

Chuck Baker was in Atlanta, Georgia this week to attend the Norfolk Southern Short Line Conference. Baker provided an ASLRRA update at the conference, focusing on the partnership between short lines and Class I railroads and discussing the industry’s legislative, regulatory and legal priorities.


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

New SLSI Safety Tip Focuses on Personal Responsibility for Safety

Safety is everyone’s job, and each employee should feel comfortable taking personal responsibility for safety each day, for every element of the operation.

The Short Line Safety Institute’s (SLSI) newest Safety Tip highlights Element 6 of the 10 Core Elements of a Strong Safety Culture as defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation Safety Council. Element 6 says, in part, that “employees who feel personally responsible for safety take more ownership in following safety procedures and are also more likely to speak up when they see other employees behaving in an unsafe manner.” The SLSI’s Safety Tip provides eight suggestions for employees to demonstrate safety leadership on their railroad.

The Safety Tip library provides easy-to-use Safety Tips on a wide variety of topics – many have an accompanying video – for general safety, and for hazardous materials management.

SLSI Offers Leading Forward Class for Women

The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) will again present its Leading Forward – Skills Development for Railroad Professionals training seminar to women in the rail industry. The seminar will take place August 6 to 8 in Denver, Colorado. The class is offered at no cost to railroad employees.

The goal of this new course is to equip women railroaders with the skills, abilities, and support to become leaders. This class provides a space for railway women to network, form new connections, share experiences and collaborate.

Click here to register for the event. There are only eight spaces remaining in this seminar, so those who are interested in attending are encouraged to register soon. Those needing accommodations for the seminar can book a hotel room at the Embassy Suites Denver Downtown at a discounted rate. The special rate expires on July 5.


ASLRRA Members in Minnesota Receive State Grant Funding for Projects

Three ASLRRA member railroads have received grants from the Minnesota Department of Transportation through its Minnesota Rail Service Improvement program. The program awarded funding to eleven freight rail projects in the state.

Progressive Rail – Lakeville received $468,137 to improve eight bridge structures on the company’s 97 miles of track in Minnesota. Minnesota Northern Railroad Company received $1.56 million to develop land for a new industrial park and innovation center and Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company received $328,424 to extend a track and build a full siding with access to the railroad’s mainline.


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.