Views & News - December 6, 2023

Views & News


Issue Highlights:

Regulatory – RAISE grant funding opportunity now open

Legislative – Michigan passes law allowing use of spent railroad ties for alternative energy

Announcements – ASLRRA publishes list of 2024 training seminars

ASLRRA Annual Conference – Nominations now being accepted for some ASLRRA annual awards

Webinars – New webinar on the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) scheduled for Dec. 20



New Railroad Workplace Safety Part 214 Training Program Now Available Online

ASLRRA and Iowa Northern Railway (IANR) announce the release of their newest online training program on Part 214, now available for use through ASLRRA and IANR’s Learning Management System (LMS).

The course covers requirements of 49 CFR Part 214, FRA Railroad Workplace Safety standards and the following subparts of the regulation: general rules, bridge worker standards, roadway worker protection (RWP), on-track roadway maintenance machines and hi-rail vehicles. Part 214 regulations are designed to prevent accidents involving employees engaged in certain railroad inspection, maintenance and construction activities.

Railroads using the LMS platform may train their employees using this new program, built using the latest technology and incorporating interactive tools to engage adult learners and ensure content retention. The ability to deliver this training through online LMS platforms will enhance the training requirement for roadway workers, and railroads can utilize the program for both initial classroom and refresher training.

An FRA CRISI grant funded development of this course, which is the first of 30 regulatory training programs planned over the next five years.  This and all programs developed under the grant will be available to users of the ASLRRA/IANR LMS platform.  Programs will also be available to railroads using third-party LMS platforms.  

Go to ASLRRA’s Short Line Training Center website to learn about industry training and resources available from ASLRRA and IANR or contact ASLRRA Senior Vice President of Education and Business Services Sabrina Waiss for more information and pricing.


ASLRRA Congratulates New Board of Directors Eastern Region Vice President

Livonia, Avon & Lakeville President and CEO Bob Babcock has been elected the new ASLRRA Board of Directors Eastern Region Vice President. Babcock was a member of the Eastern Region Board, but now moves to the Executive Board. He takes the place of R.J. Corman Executive Vice President, Commercial Affairs Justin Broyles, who vacated his position after being elected Vice Chair of the Executive Board. Babcock is also a member of ASLRRA’s Legislative Policy Committee and Safety and Training Committee.



Department of Transportation Opens Application Period for RAISE Grant Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released their notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the FY 2024 Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program, making $1.5 billion available for transportation projects with significant local or regional impact. Applications are due February 28.

Each year half of the funding awarded goes to rural projects. At least $15 million is guaranteed to be awarded to projects in areas of persistent poverty or historically disadvantaged communities, with those projects eligible for up to 100 percent federal cost share. Only public entities can apply for RAISE, so short lines approaching this program must do so through a public partner.

RAISE grants have funded short line projects in every cycle. Since 2018, 27 projects benefiting short lines have been funded, totaling $364 million in awards. A wide range of short line project types have received RAISE awards, including projects for weight capacity improvements; speed improvements; bridge rehabilitation and replacement; grade crossing improvements and separations; rail infrastructure at ports; and yard and transload facilities.

Locomotive replacement projects are an eligible activity under the RAISE program. The competitiveness of these applications depends on alignment of the project with evaluation criteria and program considerations. RAISE funds can also be used to pay subsidy or credit risk premium and administrative costs associated with DOT RRIF rail loans.

This is one of the most competitive of the DOT’s grant programs. In the last cycle, 1,100 projects requested almost $14 billion in funding, resulting in 166 awards totaling $2.23 billion. Because of the large number of applications and the competitiveness, the evaluation process has become very regimented.

Applicants to RAISE should be careful to thoroughly address all the evaluation criteria elements in their applications exactly as specified in the NOFO. Cost effectiveness is a criterion of the program, making the benefit-cost analysis (BCA) an important component. Applicants can expect their BCAs to receive a close and critical examination. When developing project schedules, applicants also need to pay attention to statutory deadlines in the program for executing the federal grant agreement and then completing their project.

Those with questions about RAISE grants can contact ASLRRA’s Assistant Vice President, Policy and Industry Affairs Richard Sherman.

Virginia Department of Rail Also Accepting Grant Applications

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) has opened its application period for all the agency’s grant programs for fiscal year 2025. Programs that could benefit ASLRRA members in Virginia include The Freight Fund, Rail Industrial Access (RIA) and the Rail Preservation Fund (RPF), which is meant specifically for the nine short lines operating in the state.

The application period closes on Feb. 1. Virginia is using a new grants management system, WebGrants, and all applications must be submitted through the platform. Grant management activities will also take place in the system. More information about WebGrants, including how-to guides, can be found here.

ASLRRA Member Discount Program Offers Grant Writing Assistance

ASLRRA Member Discount Program Preferred Providers can aid members looking for professional help with preparing and submitting grant applications. Colliers Engineering & Design, formerly Bergmann, has experience writing and administering state and federal grants and has helped its rail industry clients procure over $206 million in grant funding. Colliers has over 75 offices located across the US.

Click here to access ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program page and learn more about the products and services available to members from trusted providers.


Irwin Car Paid Ad


Accident Reporting Threshold Increases for Calendar Year 2024

The new rail equipment accident/incident reporting threshold for calendar year 2024 is $12,000. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) calculated the threshold using procedures in the Revision of Method for Calculating Monetary Threshold for Reporting Rail Equipment Accidents/Incidents, based in part on increased wage rates and an increase in the average equipment index. The new reporting threshold is $500 more than the previous threshold.


RRB Explains Appeal Process for Unfavorable Claims Determinations in December Q&A

In the December edition of its Question and Answer (Q&A) series, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) explains how those claiming RRB benefits can appeal unfavorable determinations on their claims.

The Q&A outlines the agency’s three-stage review and appeals process, which applies to all claims under the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA) or Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA). Also discussed are waiver requests for annuity and benefit overpayments; appeal options beyond the RRB’s decision on an appeal; and ways railroad employers can contest their employees’ unemployment and sickness benefit claims.

Also included in the Q&A are links to RRB forms needed to complete an appeal and RRB contact information for those who need assistance with the appeals process.


Research Results Examine Full Moving Block Concept and Related Requirements

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published research results concerning the full moving block (FMB) method of train control. MxV Rail and a rail industry stakeholder technical advisory group worked together to develop several documents, concepts, requirements and a preliminary safety analysis for the FMB method.



Michigan Governor Passes Clean Energy Bill Allowing Use of Rail Ties as Alternative Energy Source

On Nov. 28 Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 271, a clean energy and climate action bill that allows spent railroad ties to be burned as a renewable energy source in existing permitted biomass combustion facilities.

ASLRRA has advocated for allowing used railroad ties to be burned as an alternative energy source, keeping them out of landfills and helping support national clean energy goals. Michigan’s law demonstrates ways railroads can pursue efforts at the state level to allow them to use spent railroad ties as an energy source.

ASLRRA and members of the Association’s Environmental Committee are constantly seeking ways to improve the environmental impact of all aspects of railroading. If you are interested in the work of the Environmental Committee, please contact ASLRRA’s Jo Strang or Committee Chair Sean Strong.


ASLRRA Joins Letter Calling for Passage of Transportation Security Screening Modernization Act

ASLRRA signed a letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security expressing support for the Transportation Security Screening Modernization Act, H.R. 5840, which would streamline the background check process for government and supply chain workers. Over 150 organizations, including ASLRRA, signed the letter advocating passage of the bill, which has bipartisan support in Congress.

Railroad workers are among those who often have to obtain multiple security credentials for different government agencies, such as the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, before being allowed to work at ports or maritime facilities or transport hazardous materials. Securing these credentials involves completing multiple background checks and paying the accompanying fees.

The proposed bill would allow eligible workers to apply existing valid background checks to multiple credentialing programs, codifying formal recommendations from the Government Accountability Office, which date back to 2007.


ASLRRA Short Line Education Fund Holiday



ASLRRA Announces 2024 Training Seminar Schedule, With Scholarships Available to Small-Railroad Employees

ASLRRA has announced a list of regulatory training seminars the Association plans to offer in 2024, all of which are eligible for scholarships through the Association’s scholarship program.

Training seminars include

  • Part 219, FRA Drug and Alcohol Regulations
  • General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR)
  • Parts 215, 229 and 231, Mechanical and Locomotive and Car Safety Training
  • Part 217, Designated Supervisor of Locomotive Engineers (DSLE) and Efficiency Testing
  • Part 214, Roadway Worker Safety
  • Part 225, Railroad Accidents/Incidents
  • ASLRRA Leadership Development, Regulatory Module

There are tentative dates and locations for these seminars available on ASLRRA’s website. The Association will open registration for the events once details are finalized.

Many small-railroad employees have been able to attend training and educational events like ASLRRA’s seminars thanks to generous donations from short line railroaders and their families. Those interested in attending ASLRRA training in 2024 should consider applying for a scholarship to help cover registration fees and travel and lodging costs. Click here to learn more about ASLRRA’s scholarship program and view eligibility guidelines.

The scholarship application process is simple and starts with submission of a brief online form found here. Applications are accepted and processed on a rolling basis. Contact ASLRRA’s Sabrina Waiss with any questions about upcoming training seminars or scholarships.


A Donation to the Short Line Education Fund Supports Training and Scholarships

Many people donate to charities over the winter holiday season, as an opportunity to honor the spirit of the season, maximize tax deductions before the year’s end, or for many other reasons. ASLRRA hopes those contemplating making donations through the end of December consider a tax-deductible contribution to the Association’s Short Line Education Fund, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Since its start in 2017, the Short Line Education Fund has been used to pursue projects that provide critical support for high-priority industry education and training initiatives and award scholarships that enable employees of small railroads to attend industry training and access educational resources.

ASLRRA continues to welcome donations to the Short Line Education Fund. The generous support of the short line community will help the Association continue its work in this important area. Click here to learn more about the scholarship fund, or send an email to get the donation process started.


ASLRRA Grant Writers MDP


ASLRRA Annual Conference

Nomination Period Open for Several ASLRRA Annual Awards

The nomination period is now open for several of ASLRRA’s annual awards, which recognize those members and their employees doing extraordinary work in the areas of business development, environmentally friendly practices, veterans engagement and workplace safety.

The Veterans Engagement Award recognizes ASLRRA members who have demonstrated a commitment to recruiting and retaining veterans in the workforce. Pacific Harbor Line was the 2023 winner.

The Safety Awards recognize a Safety Person of the Year and Safety Professional of the Year for those considered exceptional leaders in their railroads’ safety efforts. The 2023 Safety Person of the Year was Texas North Western Railway’s Raul Guerrero, and Safety Professional of the Year was The Indiana Rail Road Company’s Austin Milton.

Follow each of the links to learn about the awards and access online nomination forms. Winners of each award are recognized at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, which takes place March 24 to 26 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Register now to take advantage of early-bird rates for the conference, golf tournament at the Paradise Pointe Golf Complex and continuing legal education (CLE) credits. The early bird rate ends on December 31 and prices will go up on New Year’s Day.

Registered attendees will be able to reserve a room in one of three Kansas City hotels where ASLRRA has a room block: Loews Kansas City, Hilton President Kansas City and the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Kansas City. Every hotel is either connected to or a short walk from the convention center. Saturday night reservations at the Hilton and Marriott are already sold out, so attendees should make reservations now.

The expo hall at the annual conference also promises to be the go-to meeting hub for event attendees. Companies interested in an exhibit hall booth or an event sponsorship can follow the respective links to learn more or contact ASLRRA’s Kathy Keeney via email or on (202) 585-3439.


ASLRRA 2024 Conference

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Upcoming Webinars

CRISI Grants Spotlight: Locomotivation – Pursuing Funding for Motive Power Projects – December 19, 2023

In this webinar, participants will hear from the Federal Railroad Administration on the CRISI program’s eligibility for locomotive repower or replacement projects and best practices for applicants. Additionally, ASLRRA member locomotive suppliers will provide an overview of their product offerings that can be supported with CRISI funds and talk about their experience working with railroads and CRISI grants.

Presented by FRA Senior Advisor for Climate and Sustainability Michael Johnsen, Progress Rail Director of Advanced Energy Michael Cleveland, Wabtec Senior Sales Manager Ross Parsi and ASLRRA Assistant Vice President, Policy and Industry Affairs Richard Sherman.

NEW! Employers’ Responsibilities Under RUIA – 12(o) Liens and 2(f) Recoveries – December 20, 2023

Learn about employers’ responsibilities under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) for 12(o) liens and 2(f) recoveries which impact the employers’ annual experience rating contributions to the RRB.

Presented by RRB Management Member Tom Jayne, RRB Assistant Director Unemployment Sickness Division Rick Easterday, RRB Senior Assistant to Chief of SUBS Stacy Ruffin and RRB Counsel to the Management Member Rob Perbohner.


On-Demand Webinars

Learn About Railroad Inspection Technology – Including Drones – Through ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinars

ASLRRA has offered several webinars discussing innovative technology used in railroad inspection and maintenance. The most recent one, an interesting look into building a railroad drone program, is already available in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library for member access any time. Look for it and these other titles:

  • Building a Successful Drone Program
  • Assessment of Railroad Bridges Using Wireless Smart Sensors
  • Using 3D Lasers and AI Innovations in Track Inspection

Visit ASLRRA’s webinar homepage to view these on-demand offerings and many more in the Association’s webinar library.


Click here to learn more about our education offerings.


Industry News and Events


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Views & News is published by American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.
Please contact Amy Krouse, editor, with questions or comments.