February 2023 NRC Bulletin

March 1, 2023

NRC Updates and Announcements

Register today: NRC Annual Equipment Auction starts April 27!


The NRC's annual construction and maintenance equipment auction will be in-person and online starting on April 27. Click here to register for the NRC auction.


A 10% buyer's premium is charged on all items. A percentage of the equipment consigned to sell helps fund the NRC Safety, Training, and Education Program, and the seller keeps the rest. For donated equipment, 100% of the proceeds go to the NRC Safety, Training, and Education Program which helps to fund NRC safety videos and training programs such as Part 243 Templates. To access your member benefits, including the library of NRC safety videos, please login to the NRC website at www.nrcma.org. Not an NRC member and want to access to this and many other membership benefits? Join as an NRC member today!. If you have any questions about joining the NRC, or your organization's current membership status, please simply reply to this email


Auction Details:


Location: Thank you to our host, Maintenance of Way Equipment Services (503 Avenue H, Rosenberg, TX 77471)


‍Schedule:

  • Happy Hour - April 26, 2023. Join us at the Houston Marriott Sugar Land from 5 to 7 pm. More details about the Happy Hour will be forthcoming. Please register to attend.
  • In-Person Auction with On-Site and Online Bidding - April 27, 2023 at 9 am CDT.
  • Online auction will continue on Monday, May 1, 2023.


Hotel Info: The NRC has secured a room block for the evening of Wednesday, April 26 at the Houston Sugarland Marriott. Visit, https://www.marriott.com/event-reservations/reservation-link.mi?id=1674594962459&key=GRP&app=resvlink to reserve your room.



Equipment and Bidder Registration: To register equipment for sale or donation, or to register as a bidder, please click here and email Billy Hartnedy of Blackmon Auctions at billy@blackmonauctions.org. 


Equipment Inspection: Contact Billy Hartnedy at billy@blackmonauctions.com for equipment inquiries.


Shipment & Delivery of Equipment: Please contact Billy Hartnedy of Blackmon Auctions at billy@blackmonauctions.com


For the most up-to-date information, visit: https://www.nrcma.org/events/annual-auction

NRC Members: NRC Safety Video #29: Safety and Health - Fitness for Duty Now Available!


Proceeds consigned or donated to the NRC auction directly support the NRC’s safety programs, including the ongoing safety training video series. The NRC's brand new Safety Video #29 - Safety and Health: Fitness for Duty addresses the timely topic of mental health and is now available for view at www.nrcma.org.


For a sneak peek, please click the NRC icon on the left for a preview. To access your member benefits, including the library of NRC safety videos, please login to the NRC website at www.nrcma.org. Not an NRC member and want to access to this and many other membership benefitsJoin as an NRC member today!. If you have any questions about joining the NRC, or your organization's current membership status, please simply reply to this email.

NRC Members: NRC Membership Renewal Period Now Open!


It is time to renew your company's NRC 2023 membership! NRC staff emailed your organization's primary contact earlier in February with all corresponding information for your organization's renewal. If your organization was a member in 2022, and you would like to renew or have any questions about renewing or joining in please contact NRC staff at info@nrcma.org. Additionally, please click here to take the NRC membership survey, if you have not already done so.


Not an NRC member and want to access to this and many other membership benefitsJoin as an NRC member today!. If you have any questions about joining the NRC, or your organization's current membership status, please simply reply to this email.

Railroad Day on the Hill is May 17


The National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) works together with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) to schedule and coordinate appointments between railroad stakeholders and House and Senate leaders and Hill offices representing states and districts across the country. NRC encourages member contractors and suppliers to register now at this link on the ASLRRA website: http://bit.ly/3KHlwHH

 

Registrants will be asked to create an ASLRRA user account as a non-member and will be given three registration options: 


  • Hill appointments only: $50
  • Hill appointments and reception: $200. The reception for Members of Congress, their staff members, and Railroad Day attendees will be held from 5 to 7 pm. The location in the Capitol Hill area will be announced in the coming weeks.
  • Reception only: $150


Matt Ginsberg, president of the NRC’s government affairs firm in Washington, TGA Association Management Solutions, noted the large turnover in Congress and the need to generate greater awareness about freight railroads. “We’ve seen a significant turnover in key committee leadership and composition and almost 150 new Members of Congress since we were last on the Hill." Ginsberg suggested contractors and suppliers have an important story to share about their work in the industry as well as their innovations that propel safety and productivity improvements. “Railroad Day on the Hill and grassroots events are tremendous opportunities to build relationships with your elected officials, their staff members and with other leaders in our industry. Those relationships will serve your organization well and will cumulatively benefit the freight rail industry.”

East Palestine, Ohio Derailment Update



On March 1, Senators JD Vance (R-OH), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with Marco Rubio (R-FL), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Jon Fetterman (D-PA) introduced legislation, The Railway Safety Act of 2023. The bill will take a number of key steps to improve rail safety protocols, such as enhancing safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, establishing requirements for wayside defect detectors, creating a permanent requirement for railroads to operate with at least two-person crews, increasing fines for wrongdoing committed by rail carriers, and more. To read the full bill, please click here.


On February 28, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called on all seven Class I North American railroads to sign up by the end of the week for the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) that would encourage rail employees to report safety hazards without fear of reprisal. The request comes in response to the February 3, 2023 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The FRA sponsored voluntary confidential program allows railroads and their employees to report close calls. C3RS provides a safe environment for employees to report unsafe events and conditions and employees receive protection from discipline and FRA enforcement. In addition, railroads receive protection from FRA enforcement for events reported within C3RS. 


This follows the February 23, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy hearing on the board's preliminary report of it's investigation into the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. "We call these things accidents, but there is no accident," she said. "Every single event that we investigate is preventable," she continued. The NTSB's goals for this hearing, and future ones, are to inform the public, collect factual information from witnesses, discuss possible solutions, and build consensus for change, Homendy added. The NTSB's preliminary report on the derailment can be read here.


The investigation will focus in part on a wheelset bearing that overheated and wayside detectors that alerted the train crew to the problem prior to the derailment. In response to the report, NS officials said that its wayside detectors trigger an alarm at a temperature among the lowest in the rail industry. The railroad has inspected all wayside detectors in the area of the incident and found they were operating as designed, company officials said in a press release.

Additionally, on February 21, the USDOT said it plans to issue new rules on train brakes and other items in the wake of the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio and is also calling for action from Congress. USDOT is asking the railroads to do the following:


  • Let state emergency response teams know when they are transporting tank cars with hazardous gases through their states
  • Join FRA’s whistleblower protection program
  • Deploy automated track inspection technology without asking to get rid of human inspectors
  • Provide workers paid sick leave (the contentious talking point from the 2022 rail strike negotiations)


DOT also highlighted the long-discussed two person train crew rule. Additionally, DOT says it will pursue rulemaking on high-hazard flammable trains and electronically controlled pneumatic brakes. It did not specify what the rule would do, but it will likely be similar to a 2015 rule that was withdrawn under the Trump administration that would have required some trains carrying hazardous materials to install this type of brake. This is a long-list of requests from the DOT, and some of the requests are politically-charged topics in the rail industry.

Union Pacific CEO Fritz to Step Down



On February 26, Union Pacific announced that President & CEO Lance M. Fritz will step down later this year. Fritz has served as President & CEO of Union Pacific since 2015. Union Pacific released a statement on the Feb 26, confirming that Fritz was stepping down in 2023, and that the company has began its' CEO search. The Board is seeking a CEO with a strong track record of success and expertise across safety, operational excellence, enhancing and driving customer service, innovation, employee culture and sustainability,” the release stated.


“The Board is grateful to Lance for his unwavering leadership, dedication and oversight in driving our Company forward over the last eight years as CEO. Lance created an environment that has allowed Union Pacific to make a measurable impact with our customers, communities and employees alike,” said Michael McCarthy, Lead Independent Director of the Board. “He has capably led our company during a time of significant challenge and change, positioning Union Pacific to deliver long-term sustainable value for shareholders and customers. We are immensely grateful to have Lance’s continuing leadership and support and know he will ensure a smooth transition."

Key NOFO's and Deadlines now on USDOT Website


In January of 2023, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), in order to provide stakeholders with more visibility into upcoming funding opportunities, published a list of anticipated dates for upcoming Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs) for key programs within the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), as well as adjacent programs that support BIL and IRA objectives. This list is not comprehensive and will be updated periodically with additional programs and revised dates as appropriate. To view that list, please click here.

Save-the-date: USTDA Business Briefing on Rail Infrastructure for Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico is March 22


NRC Members and industry friends, The U.S. Trade and Development Agency will host a business briefing for U.S. companies to learn about opportunities in Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico relating to new rail sector projects and modernization of existing rail infrastructure on March 23. The event will run from 9:00am CT - 4:30pm CT and will be at the Omni Chicago Hotel located in Chicago, IL.


U.S. companies have been at the forefront of developing and deploying rail systems, technologies and locomotives that improve efficiency and safety while reducing carbon footprints. Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico are all investing in priority rail projects that offer opportunities for U.S. firms to deploy their latest innovations. For more information on the event, please click here.

Industry News and Updates

LACMTA Advances East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Project

On February 27, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority (LACMTA) reported signing off on a $31 million pre-construction services contract for the East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Project. San Fernando Transit Constructors, a joint venture of NRC member Skanska USA Civil West California District Inc. and NRC member Stacy and Witbeck Inc. As part of Phase 1, it will review existing design work and conduct constructability review, value engineering, bottoms-up cost estimate and schedule.


Ontario Government Allocates $379M for Local Transportation Upgrades

On February 23, the Ontario government announced more than $379.5 million in funding to assist 107 municipalities in operating and improving local transportation. The funding will come from a gas tax program and can be used for a variety of operational and functional purposes. “As more people return to public transit, our government is providing municipalities with the funding they need to accommodate growing ridership, while ensuring they can continue to deliver safe and reliable transit service for people in their communities,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation.


Coast Guard Approves Brightline’s Request to Modernize St. Lucie River Bridge

On February 21, the U.S. Coast Guard approved Brightline's request to temporarily the navigation channel at the railroad drawbridge over the St. Lucie River in Stuart, FL to complete rehabilitation work. The rehabilitation work will begin with evening closures in April and include a 21-day navigation channel closure starting May 1. Officials expect the planned work to improve the bridge’s operating reliability. During the 21-day closure, Brightline crews are set to work 24/7 to complete the project. Brightline officials have stated that the railroad bridge rehabilitation work is one of the final stages of its Orlando expansion project. The Florida East Coast Railway, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast, federal and state authorities, as well as regional counties, towns, and law enforcement agencies, are all involved in the coordination of Brightline’s bridge work.

The NRC is a trade association representing businesses from across the nation in the rail construction and maintenance field. NRC members range in size from small family businesses to the largest companies in the industry. NRC members perform work for transit, commuter, intercity passenger, industrial, and freight rail customers, with services including track construction and maintenance, grade crossings, signal and communications installation, bridge construction and repair, rail yard work, and many more. The NRC strives to put an emphasis on rail safety and quality while proudly serving the rail industry