Views & News - July 3, 2024

Views & News


We wish everyone a joyous and safe Independence Day!


Issue Highlights:

  • Regulatory – Supreme Court makes key decision, agrees to take up rail case
  • Legislative – Senator Cruz leads letter urging rejection of CARB waiver request
  • ASLRRA Events – Registration open for ASLRRA Eastern and Southern Region Meeting
  • ASLRRA Announcements – Joint Committee Meeting organizers share tentative event schedule
  • Industry News and Events – ASLRRA mourns passing of IAIS founding chair Banner



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.

RRB Describes Severe Negative Impact of Low Budget Proposed by House Subcommittee

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies slashed funding for the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) in its fiscal year (FY) 2025 funding bill, a move that could threaten the agency’s ability to meet the needs of railroaders and other beneficiaries.

The subcommittee proposed only $100 million for the RRB, 21 percent less than it received for FY 2024. Funding for the RRB in FY 2024 was $126 million, forcing the agency to implement a hiring freeze and make budget cuts. The RRB requests $172 million for FY 2025.

In a press release, the RRB outlined the effects of such a drastic cut, calling them catastrophic. The agency anticipates customers would experience average phone wait times of over an hour and 2 to 2.5 hours during the peak season. Processing time for applications would likely be 18 months or more, field offices would close and the RRB would be unable to proceed with its multi-year IT modernization plan. The RRB lists additional fallout from drastic staffing reductions and spending cuts in the release.

ASLRRA, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Labor to urge them to meet the RRB’s requested budget amount of $172 million in their respective spending bills. The letter reiterates the negative effects budget cuts have on the RRB’s ability to serve its clients and describes the unique funding structure of the RRB, which does not rely on general taxpayer funds.


U.S. Department of Transportation Announces RAISE Grant Recipients

Freight and passenger rail projects were among the 148 projects nationwide that received grants through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program.

Of the projects receiving RAISE funding, 23 projects in 19 states have ties to rail. Freight projects include installation of rail spurs and other work at Menominee Harbor in Michigan; reinstatement of on- and near-dock rail connections to the Port of Bellingham shipping terminal in Washington state; planning projects and several highway/rail grade separation projects.

Click here to view a full list of RAISE grant recipients.


ESRI sponsor ad for short line webinarThanks to Esri for being a sponsor of this edition of Views & News.



Supreme Court Ends Chevron Deference, Agrees to Take Up Uinta Basin Case

Two recent actions by the U.S. Supreme Court, a ruling and an agreement to take up a future case, have implications for federal rail regulations and could affect rail development in Utah, respectively.

On June 28 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn the so-called “Chevron deference,” named for the 1984 case Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, which had provided federal agencies wide latitude to interpret laws and how to apply them. The end of this deference limits the regulatory power of federal agencies and could be beneficial to railroads.

In the 1984 Chevron case, the Supreme Court decided judges should defer to federal agencies in interpretations of ambiguous sections of federal laws. This deference gave agencies such as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) more freedom to establish and enforce regulations.

The FRA has recently set rules on issues like crew size and certain employee certification that railroads have argued are not supported by existing data. With the Supreme Court’s new ruling, such questions about agency decisions are more likely to go to court, with judges able to decide whether the agency properly interpreted the law on which the regulation is based.

Separately, the Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case involving construction of the Uinta Basin Railway. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) had approved the project to build a railroad to connect eastern Utah to the national rail network and facilitate shipments of natural resources, particularly waxy crude oil. An appeals court overturned the STB’s approval, saying the environmental review of the project was rushed and violated federal law. The Supreme Court will review the decision of the appeals court.

Supporters of the Uinta Basin project argue it will boost economic development of the region and bolster domestic energy production, while opponents argue the extraction and shipment of oil could have severe negative effects on the environment, especially in the event of a derailment and oil spill.


Two Updated Part 271 Compliance Templates Now Available to ASLRRA Members

ASLRRA has updated two compliance templates available to members under the section concerning Part 271, the Risk Reduction Program.

New versions of the Risk Reduction Program Training Template and the Risk Reduction Program Plan Template are now available for railroad members to download and customize. The training template is a PowerPoint file meant to be used in training programs for those who are responsible for implementing or supporting the Risk Reduction Program Plan.

The Risk Reduction Program Plan (RRPP) Template helps railroads comply with Part 271. Railroads are encouraged to read the Regulatory Program Training Introduction, also in the Compliance Templates Part 271 section, before completing and submitting the RRPP template.


TSA Offers Clarification of Existing Cybersecurity Requirements with Newly Released Directive

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued an updated new cybersecurity directive on July 1 for railroads already covered by the agency’s existing directives.

The new directive, 1580/82-2022-01C, was issued to further clarify and expand options for covered railroads with PTC to comply with requirements related to securing their locomotives utilizing physical protections, as well as more clearly defining what is a “business critical function” in the context of identifying other critical cyber systems subject to the requirements of all three TSA cybersecurity directives.

The directive has not yet been publicly posted by TSA but was sent directly to the designated cybersecurity coordinators at all covered railroads. For more information, please contact ASLRRA’s Fred Oelsner.


2024 Survey Responses Needed Ad


RRB July Q&A Discusses Unemployment and Sickness Benefits for Railroad Employees

A new benefit year for railroad unemployment and sickness benefits began July 1. The Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) July edition of its Question and Answer (Q&A) series focuses on these benefits for railroad employees.

The Q&A explains the eligibility requirements and daily rate payable for the new benefit year. Also discussed is how a person can apply for and claim unemployment and sickness benefits; how long it takes to receive payments; and waiting period requirements.


ASLRRA, Others Send Letter to SCAQMD With Comments on Proposed Rail Yard Rule

ASLRRA joined the Association of American Railroads (AAR), BNSF Railway and Union Pacific in a letter to South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Assistant Deputy Executive Officer Ian McMillan about the California agency’s request for public comments on Proposed Rules 2306 and 316.2 concerning freight rail yards.

The letter offers limited comments focused on the adequacy of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis as applied to PR 2306. The letter asserts that SCAQMD’s programmatic environmental impact report (PEIR) is not detailed enough to meet requirements under CEQA and asks that SCAQMD allow the public and regulated entities to consider a complete environmental impact report.


FRA Newsletter Describes C3RS Success Stories

A Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) newsletter published by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) talks about risk mitigation success stories, describing some of the corrective actions railroads have implemented due to the C3RS program.

Examples of the corrective actions include replacement of headlight switches on locomotives, streamlining of daily bulletin orders, making derails more visible and others. The newsletter also talks about the DataBase Query Tool (DBQT) available on the C3RS webpage. The DBQT is “the nation’s largest repository of voluntary, confidential safety information provided by the railroad industry’s frontline personnel.”

Also included in the newsletter is a chart comparing safety improvements of railroads that participate in the C3RS program with those that do not. The chart shows those railroads participating in C3RS had an approximately 20 percent reduction in total train accidents/incidents per million train miles after joining the program.



Letter from Senators Calls on EPA’s Regan to Deny CARB Waiver Request for its Locomotive Rule

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and 31 other senators have sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan to share their opposition to the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) petition for a waiver from the EPA to enforce its in-use locomotive regulation.

The group urges Regan to deny the waiver request, noting that the CARB rule is “plainly unworkable” due in part to the current lack of existing zero-emission technology for long-haul freight operations. The letter goes on to talk about other potential harm that would come about if CARB’s request were granted, including how the rule would disrupt the supply chain across the U.S., not just in California.

The letter also cites the burdensome cost railroads would be required to undertake if the rule were put in place and points out that the rule contravenes federal law. Click here to read a press release from the office of Senator Cruz discussing the letter.


ASLRRA Member Railroad President Olvera to Testify at House Subcommittee Hearing on CARB Rule

Dillon Olvera, president and CEO of ASLRRA member Modesto and Empire Traction Company (MET), will testify at a hearing of the House Transportation Committee Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials on July 9. The hearing is focused on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in-use locomotive regulation.

Olvera will provide the committee with insight into the effects CARB’s rule will have on short line railroads in California and the wider impact on the national supply chain. As a family-owned Class III railroad employing 50 people, MET will face significant financial burdens if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants CARB’s waiver request. Olvera will also discuss MET’s ongoing efforts to upgrade its locomotives to more fuel efficient models through state and federal grants.

The hearing, titled “An Examination of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) In Use Locomotive Regulation,” will be streamed live on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee website. A copy of Olvera’s written testimony will also be available on the site.


House Appropriations Subcommittee Releases Draft of Transportation Spending Bill

On July 26 the House Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee released its draft bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 and held a markup of the bill the next day. According to a bill summary, released the day of the markup, the Department of Transportation would receive $25.131 billion in discretionary funds, with $2.758 billion going to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The bill provides $298 million in discretionary funding for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants for FY 2025, which would be in addition to the $1 billion already authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Of the discretionary amount, $38 million is set aside for earmarks, leaving $260 million available for funding – in addition to the guaranteed $1 billion – if the bill were to pass unchanged.

The full Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the bill on July 10. Funding for the Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) will not be known until after the full committee markup, when an accompanying report directing FRA spending will be released.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its draft transportation bill, but it is expected some time this month.


ASLRRA 2024 leadership development seminar



Register Today for ASLRRA’s Eastern and Southern Region Meeting

Registration is now open for ASLRRA’s Eastern and Southern Region Meeting, held Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in Jacksonville, Florida.

The meeting will feature general and breakout education sessions, Eastern and Southern region and supplier sandhouse sessions and numerous networking opportunities. ASLRRA will also recognize winners of the Eastern and Southern region President’s Safety Awards. Attendees can register separately for the golf tournament, which takes place on the Slammer & Squire Course at World Golf Village Resort.

Click here to register for the meeting. Early bird rates for the meeting and golf expire on July 23. Those needing accommodations can click here to reserve a room in the ASLRRA room block at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville. The deadline for discounted hotel rates is Sept. 9.



Joint Committee Meeting Tentative Schedule Includes Committee Updates

According to a tentative schedule put forth by meeting organizers, eight of ASLRRA’s standing committees will give presentations at this year’s Joint Committee Meeting, and six will meet individually on the event’s second day.

Presentations from the technology, safety and training, young professionals, general counsel, mechanical, environmental, supplier and engineering committees are currently planned for Aug. 13. The technology, environmental, engineering, safety and training, mechanical and small railroad committees are then scheduled to meet on Aug. 14.

Associate Business Member Spark TS is hosting this year’s Joint Committee Meeting, which takes place Aug. 13 and 14 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The meeting is open to ASLRRA-member employees only, though they are not required to be committee members to attend.

Committee members who have questions about their committee’s participation should contact their respective chairpersons. General meeting questions can be directed to SparkTS’s Katie Inouye or ASLRRA’s JR GelnarClick here for more information or to register for the meeting.


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. As the fifth largest broker in the world with over 500 locations in North America, HUB International is well equipped to provide ASLRRA members with a vast network of benefits experts and best-in-class resources no matter where the member company is located in the US. 

Partnering with HUB 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.


Register for ASLRRA Leadership Development Training Co-Located With Fall Regional Meeting

ASLRRA will hold its Leadership Development - Regulatory Module training seminar Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 in Jacksonville, Florida. The seminar is co-located with the Eastern and Southern Region Meeting, held Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

The Association’s leadership development seminar covers a variety of topics, including an overview of federal railroad regulatory agencies, leadership qualities for managers and several key regulations including railroad operating rules and practices. Subject-matter experts JR Gelnar of ASLRRA and Mitch Harris of Rio Grande Pacific Corporation will lead the training.

Registration is limited to 40 people. Spots fill quickly so interested individuals are encouraged to register soon.





Upcoming Webinars

July 16, 2024 – FRA New Minimum Crew Size Rule: Short Line Requirements

Short lines that operate two-person crews with one crew member outside the cab of the locomotive must comply with the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) crew size regulation and submit notification to the FRA by Sept. 6. Railroads that currently operate or intend in the future to operate with only one crew member in the cab of a locomotive should attend this webinar to understand the requirements under the new rulemaking.

This webinar is free for ASLRRA members and $25 for non-members.


  • Mitch Harris, Vice President Safety and Compliance, Rio Grande Pacific Corporation
  • Josh Banks, Manager Operating Practices, Tacoma Rail
  • Travis Herod, Senior Vice President Environmental, Health and Safety, Watco
  • Jo Strang, Senior Vice President Safety, Regulatory and Environmental Policy, ASLRRA
  • JR Gelnar, Vice President Safety & Compliance, ASLRRA
  • Sarah Yurasko, Senior Vice President Law & General Counsel, ASLRRA


On-Demand Webinars

Recorded Webinars Focus on Employees and Their Safety

ASLRRA webinars can help railroads understand employee issues and further ensure employee safety in the workplace. Recordings of these webinars are available at any time through ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library, with relevant titles including:

  • Diagnosis, Protocol, Compliance and Regulation - A Guide to Better Understanding Sleep Apnea
  • Marijuana and CBD - New Drug Testing Issues
  • Protecting Roadway Workers from Zika, West Nile, Tick Bites and Other Warm-Weather Threats

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

ASLRRA Joins IAIS in Mourning Passing of IAIS Founding Chairman

IAIS Founding Chair Paul BannerIAIS Founding Chairman Dr. Paul H. Banner


Dr. Paul H. Banner, founding chairman of ASLRRA member Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS), has passed away. He was 102.

Banner played a key role in saving the former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad and building IAIS into the “thriving Class II regional railroad it is today.” IAIS named its locomotive #519 the Paul H. Banner in honor of Banner when he turned 100.

“To describe Paul Banner as a visionary would be an understatement,” said IAIS Chairman Henry Posner III in a press release. “The idea of a fourth main line – and an abandoned one at that – between Chicago and Omaha at the dawn of deregulation was considered by many to be delusional. We are proud to stand on his shoulders, which were extremely broad.”

ASLRRA offers its deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Banner.


August 6-8: Five Spots Remain in SLSI Leading Forward Class for Women in Rail

Only five spots remain in the Short Line Safety Institute’s (SLSI) Leading Forward – Skills Development for Railroad Professionals training seminar for women in the rail industry. The seminar will take place August 6 to 8 in Denver, Colorado and 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 and view information about hotel accommodations. There are SLSI room blocks at two hotels, the Embassy Suites Denver Downtown and Home2 by Hilton Denver Downtown. Special rates expire July 5 at the Embassy Suites and July 22 at the Home2 by Hilton.


Application Period Open for Kansas DOT Rail Grants

Applications are now being accepted for the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Rail Service Improvement Program grants. About $10 million will be available for projects that “help enhance safety, promote economic efficiency and improve sustainability to the state’s rail network.”

Applications are due Aug. 30, with awards announced next spring. Class II and III railroads are among the eligible entities. There are no maximum or minimum project award amounts, but applicants must provide a 30 percent project-cost match. To access an application form, click here to go directly to the Kansas Department of Transportation Freight and Rail website.


Wisconsin Awards $4.8 Million in Rail Infrastructure Grants

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will award $4.8 million to three freight rail improvement projects through the Freight Railroad Infrastructure Improvement Program (FRIIP). The Rio Creek Feed Mill, Riffey Transload and the Village of Wrightstown will receive funding for facility upgrades and storage and track construction.

ASLRRA member Fox Valley & Lake Superior Rail System serves the Rio Creek Feed Mill, which received $1.5 million to help construct a new grain bin, support tower and loading and unloading equipment to help improve rail car loading and unloading efficiency.

ASLRRA member Wisconsin & Southern Railroad serves Riffey Transload, which received $825,267 for a new trackside storage building. The building will help Riffey Transload’s food-products-industry customers reduce transportation costs.

Wrightstown will construct 4,172 feet of track to extend a village-owned industry lead. CN serves businesses on the industry lead.


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.