Views & News - July 10, 2024

Views & News


Issue Highlights:

  • Headlines – MET President and CEO Olvera testifies at House hearing on CARB
  • Regulatory – OSHA issues preliminary version of heat injury workplace rule
  • Legislative – State officials, others tour Watco railroad
  • New Members – ASLRRA welcomes new member Steptoe LLP
  • ASLRRA Events – Registration now open for Central and Pacific Region Meeting
  • Industry News and Events – Alabama short line member receives $1 million state grant for repairs, upgrades



Short Line Notable News

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

Regional Rail acquires Cincinnati Eastern Railroad

Port NOLA acquires Coffee Drive warehouse

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.

Notice of Funding Opportunity Issued for Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced the release of a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) grant program. Over $1.1 billion will be available for projects that improve railroad crossing safety and efficiency.

The NOFO for fiscal years 2023 and 2024 was published in the Federal Register today; applications are due Sept. 23. Private railroad companies are not directly eligible for RCE grants but can partner with states, tribes, local governments or other similar public entities to apply.

Eligible projects include grade separation or closure of railroad crossings, track relocation, improvement or installation of crossing safety devices and implementation of other safety measures. RCE grants can also fund planning, design and environmental review of eligible projects. Approximately $230 million will go to projects in rural communities or on Tribal lands, and $38 million will be available for planning projects.

More information can be found on the RCE program website. Also on the website is a link to fiscal year 2022 RCE informational webinars, though the FRA will likely hold updated RCE-related webinars during the grant application period.


Member Testimony at House Hearing Describes Potential Ramifications of CARB Locomotive Rule

On July 9, Dillon Olvera, president and CEO of ASLRRA member Modesto and Empire Traction Company (MET), testified at a hearing of the House Transportation Committee Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) In-Use Locomotive Regulation. Olvera testified on the issue on behalf of ASLRRA.

Several committee members expressed their concern about the CARB rule, including its effect on short line railroads. There was strong support for short lines and their crucial role in the national economy and supply chain. The witness representing CARB, Heather Arias, also commended Class III railroads for their efforts to use state and federal funding to acquire more fuel-efficient rail equipment.

Olvera provided the committee insight into how CARB’s rule would affect short line railroads in California and have a ripple effect across the national rail network and supply chain. Olvera talked about MET’s history as a 113-year-old family business serving 30 customers on 53 miles of track with 50 employees. Located in the heart of Central Valley, an agricultural hub, MET provides a crucial connection between California’s food shippers and the national freight network.

If allowed to be enacted via a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently under consideration, CARB’s locomotive regulation would, by the agency’s own admission, put some small railroads out of business. Olvera pointed out how the elimination of small railroads would force more shipments onto local roads via truck, increasing shipping costs and the kind of pollution CARB aims to reduce with its rule.

Olvera further described how MET and other railroads work to make their operations more environmentally friendly than they already are. MET started working in 2008 to upgrade its locomotive engines to lower-emission models, relying on state and federal grant funding to help pay for these improvements.

Hearing witnesses joining Olvera and Arias were Roger Nober of George Washington University and Ural Yal of Flatiron Construction on behalf of the Associated General Contractors of California.

A recording of the hearing is available on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee website. A copy of Olvera’s written testimony is available here and on the committee website.















Modesto and Empire Traction Company President and CEO Dillon Olvera (right) poses for a picture with Representative John Duarte (R-Calif.) who introduced Olvera during the hearing.



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



OSHA Publishes Preliminary Version of Heat Injury Proposed Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published an unofficial version of its Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings proposed rule, which would establish a federal heat standard to protect workers from hazardous work conditions due to high temperatures.

According to the rule, employers would need to create an injury and illness prevention plan to control workplace heat hazards. Employers would also have to provide drinking water and rest breaks and further protect workers not used to working in high heat conditions.

The public will be invited to submit comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) once it is published in the Federal Register. ASLRRA staff will review the NPRM to determine its effect on Association members and plans to submit comments. OSHA has created a webpage discussing the proposed rule, with links to the unofficial NPRM, background information and other resources.

The U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy will hold a Small Business Labor Safety Roundtable on July 12 to discuss two of OSHA’s proposed rules, the heat injury rule and an emergency response rule. Interested individuals can register for the meeting via email in the link above.

OSHA convened a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel in 2023 and hosted videoconferences with small entity representatives to discuss workplace heat hazard standards. ASLRRA member Farmrail participated. The Association followed Farmrail’s testimony by filing supplementary comments in December focused on OSHA’s heat-related illness docket and SBAR Panel materials.


ASLRRA, AAR Submit Comments on CISA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Cyber Incident Reporting

ASLRRA joined the Association of American Railroads (AAR) in submitting comments to the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) concerning Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act (CIRCIA) Reporting.

CIRCIA requires CISA to make rules mandating covered entities report certain cyber incidents, ransom payments made in response to a ransomware attack and other information to the agency within certain timeframes.

In their comments, the Associations make several suggestions, including that CISA work to harmonize its requirements with the reporting requirements of other federal agencies. ASLRRA and AAR also say that CISA’s definition of covered entities, which would include all freight railroads, is overly broad and would require some railroads to submit duplicate reports, since they are already required to report cybersecurity incidents to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The Associations further identify other requirements in the NPRM considered to be too broad and recommends CISA narrow their scope.


FRA Research Results Discuss Tank Car Impact Tests

The Federal Railroad Administration published research results of a full-scale shell impact test of a DOT-105J500W (DOT-105) tank car meant to carry liquid carbon dioxide. Contrary to what was expected, the impact test did not result in a punctured tank car.

The test was part of an FRA program to study the puncture resistance of various tank car designs. According to the report, this program works to “develop standardized test and simulation methodologies for quantifying the puncture resistance of tank car designs” to help develop strategies to reduce the potential for a hazardous materials release in the event of a tank car derailment.

Researchers were unsure about the puncture resistance of the tank car in this test due to the elevated pressure of the car’s contents and the unique design of the liquid carbon dioxide tank car being tested. Although the impact model indicated the car would puncture when subjected to the test , it did not. Researchers will use data from the test to validate the pre-test model and improve future models to further test puncture resistance of the DOT-105 tank car under actual service conditions for refrigerated liquid CO2.


ASLRRA Colliers Engineering MDP



Texas Officials Tour Watco Railroad, ASLRRA Encourages Site Visits

ASLRRA member parent company Watco hosted a group of Texas officials and business leaders for a tour of ASLRRA member Texas Coastal Bend Railroad (TCBR) and the Port of Corpus Christi, which the railroad serves.

Approximately 30 people participated in the tour, including representatives from the rail and maritime divisions of the Texas Department of Transportation, state legislators and local officials and individuals from the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation.

The group learned about TCBR and the port and their impact on the local area. Attendees also received an overview of the short line industry in general and discussed how rail benefits Texas and the issues currently facing the rail industry.

 Rail advocacy group GoRail helped organize the tour. ASLRRA has helped plan and execute similar tours at member properties and encourages short lines to consider hosting their elected officials and other policy makers.

Summer is an ideal time to organize a site visit, as many Texas officials tour Watco railroadfederal representatives travel back to their hometowns and are more available to meet with constituents. Members interested in planning a tour can contact ASLRRA’s Crystal Gitchell or Richard Sherman for assistance.




Texas officials and business representatives toured the facilities of ASLRRA member Texas Coastal Bend Railroad and the Port of Corpus Christi. ASLRRA can help members arrange these types of meetings to help connect railroads with their elected officials.



ASLRRA 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 New Associate Business Member Steptoe

Steptoe LLP, with offices in major U.S. cities including Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, represents railroads in complex commercial disputes before the Surface Transportation Board (STB), in federal and state courts, and in arbitration proceedings. The law firm’s railroad practice specializes in high-stakes rail rate and contract litigation and arbitration proceedings, major rail construction/environmental cases, and cases involving the preemption of state law. It’s also experienced in rail safety matters overseen by the Federal Railroad Administration and in the process for obtaining regulatory approval for new construction and other rail transactions, including the environmental review process and application of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act to those projects. Our primary contact is Partner Tim Strafford, who can be reached at (202) 429-8170.


ASLRRA Part 225 Training Seminar



Registration Now Open for Both of ASLRRA’s Regional Meetings

Registration is now open for ASLRRA’s Central and Pacific Region Meeting, which will be held Oct. 28 to 30 in Dallas, Texas.

The meeting will feature general and breakout education sessions, Central and Pacific region and supplier sandhouse sessions and numerous networking opportunities. ASLRRA will also recognize winners of the regions’ President’s Safety Awards. Attendees can register separately for the golf tournament, which takes place on the Luna Vista Golf Course.

Click here to register for the meeting. Early bird rates for the meeting and golf end on Aug. 20. Those needing accommodations can click here to reserve a room in the ASLRRA room block at the Westin Galleria Dallas. The deadline for discounted hotel rates is Oct. 7.

Also taking place in Dallas, co-located with the regional meeting, are the General Counsel Symposium and Finance and Administration Seminar. The symposium takes place Oct. 28 and 29, while the seminar takes place Oct. 29 and 30. Attendees must register separately for these events. Registration will open soon.

Registration opened last week for ASLRRA’s Eastern and Southern Region Meeting, which will be held Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in Jacksonville, Florida.

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.



Grant Writing Preferred Providers Help ASLRRA Members Pursue Funding Opportunities

ASLRRA has tapped industry experts to assist member railroads in the preparation and submission of grant applications for programs currently available from the Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation and other sources. This includes programs like the Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) program, for which the notice of funding opportunity was published today.

As a preferred provider of grant writing services, Colliers Engineering and Design offers discounted rates, industry expertise, and exceptional service to ASLRRA members. Visit ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program page and select Grant Writing Services to learn more about Colliers and other exceptional preferred providers.


Seats Added to August Part 225 Training Seminar

Due to demand, additional seats have been added to ASLRRA’s Part 225 Railroad Accidents/Incidents Training Seminar and registration has been re-opened for the event. The seminar will take place August 27 to 28 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Seven Part 225 experts from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will be on hand to present seminar materials and answer attendee questions. Attendees will receive an in-depth review of Part 225 to ensure their understanding of the regulation’s requirements and the tools and resources related to accident/incident reporting. Attendees will also learn about available templates, plans and policies to facilitate regulatory compliance.

High Demand for Part 225 Seminar Indicative of Overall Success of 2024 ASLRRA Training Program

ASLRRA’s training program continues to grow in popularity, as evidenced by seminars that consistently fill up even when extra seats are added to accommodate participants. By the end of 2024 the Association will have offered seven seminars, the most ever in a single year.

A number of subject-matter and industry experts served as seminar presenters, including representatives from the FRA, Iowa Northern Railway Company, Rio Grande Pacific Corporation and ASLRRA. Attendees received essential regulatory compliance training, operating program updates and, in some cases, hands-on training opportunities.

There are still two seminars left this year, the Part 225 accidents/incidents seminar in August and the Leadership Development Training– Regulatory Module at the end of September. Registration is open for both events.

ASLRRA’s education team has already begun planning next year’s slate of training seminars and welcomes topic suggestions from members. Members are encouraged to contact Senior Vice President, Education and Business Services Sabrina Waiss or Vice President, Safety and Compliance JR Gelnar with questions or recommendations.

Locomotive and Car Compliance Training June 2024





Seats were full at the Locomotive and Car Compliance Training Seminar, held in June in Waterloo, Iowa. Participation in ASLRRA's training seminars has grown, with the Association offering a record seven seminars in 2024.



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. Separate registration is required for the seminar.

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.


2024 Survey Responses Needed Ad


Out and About

Staff Shorts: Who’s Where in the Railroad World

Chuck Baker traveled to the Midwest for two events this week, the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers (MARS) 2024 Summer Meeting in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and the MEP&A 2024 Rail & Maritime Summit in Chicago, Illinois.

At the MARS Summer Meeting Baker moderated a fireside chat with Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. CEO Michael Miller. At the Rail & Maritime Summit, Baker spoke about the short line industry and gave an overview of short line priorities.

JR Gelnar and Sabrina Waiss were on the road again for an ASLRRA training seminar. This week the pair traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to host the Part 214 Railroad Workplace Safety seminar. Gelnar and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Specialist Tim Presser presented information on roadway worker protection, on-track roadway maintenance machines and hi-rail vehicles and on-track safety program requirements.

Sarah Yurasko was featured in another railroad podcast, this time with The Roundhouse Podcast. Yurasko joined two ASLRRA-member executives, Arkansas and Missouri Railroad President Caren Kraska and Cathcart Rail Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Vanessa Knapton, in an episode titled “Women in Short Line Railroading.” The trio discussed their careers in the industry, their work to cultivate interest in railroading and where they see opportunities for growth.



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

Legal Webinars Available On-Demand to ASLRRA Members

ASLRRA offers more than 200 recorded webinars covering a variety of different topics, including legal issues. Some of the legal webinars available at any time to members include:

  • Strategically Defending a FELA Toxic Tort Case
  • 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

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

Alabama Short Line Receives Grant to Replace Bridge, Make Key Upgrades

A $1 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will help ASLRRA member Huntsville and Madison County Railroad Authority (HMCR) replace a bridge and make other upgrades to better serve customers in north Alabama.

HMCR will replace the existing wooden Aldridge Creek bridge with a concrete structure, which will allow heavier rail cars and restore rail service to Saint-Gobain Industrial. The company had relied on trucks to bring in sand shipments because of decreased cargo tonnage permitted on the old bridge.

HMCR will also use grant funds to install new crossties and make improvements to its rail yard. In a press release, HMCR officials said the improvements could help the railroad attract more clients to the area in addition to benefiting the 10 industries HMCR already serves.


NRHS Seeks Nominations for Annual Historic Preservation Award

The National Railway Historical Society (NRHS), along with Railway Age and Railway Track & Structures magazines, is accepting nominations for its Outstanding Railroad Historic Preservation Award. Nominations are due Aug. 30.

The award will go to a working common-carrier railroad in recognition of efforts to preserve railroad history. Railroads in the U.S., Canada and Mexico are eligible. Historic railroads, tourist lines and museums not operated by common-carrier railroads are ineligible for this award. Use the link above to learn more or complete an online nomination form.


SLSI Releases Second Hazmat Safety Tip Of Two-Part Series On Tank Cars

The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) released the second in a series of two Hazmat Safety Tips focused on tank cars.

Part II describes the major physical characteristics of a tank car, such as the tank shell, tank jacket and head shield. Part I described tank car orientation including reporting mark, weight specification and placard locations.

The Hazmat Safety Tip Part II is available as a downloadable PDF document and a Hazmat Minute Video. Part I is also available as a PDF and video.

These Hazmat Safety Tips are part of a resource library of more than 30 tips – many with corresponding videos - provided at no cost to short line railroads for information or use in safety briefings.  Click here to access the library.


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.