October 2020 NRC Bulletin
October 30, 2020
NRC Updates and Announcements
NRC FirstLook 2021 Registration is Open!

NRC FirstLook is an alternative to the annual NRC Conference - the premier railway industry event held each January. While we would like to meet in-person and make valuable connections as we have done at the annual conference for the past 42 years, this year has brought about unforeseen circumstances that do not allow us to hold a safe and effective in-person meeting.

NRC FirstLook 2021 features these primary tracks:
  • Fireside Chat with Norfolk Southern CEO James A. Squires on Wednesday, January 6, 2021
  • Signal and Communications Opportunities for Contractors and Suppliers Panel Wednesday, January 13, 2021
  • Freight Procurement Opportunities for Contractors and Suppliers Panel on Thursday, January 21, 2021
  • Class 1 Capital Program and Opportunities for Contractors and Suppliers Panel on Wednesday January 27, 2021

To register, please click here. You will have the opportunity to register for individual events or take advantage of the discounted bundle price for all four events if you’re an NRC member. Not a member and want to join to get the discounted bundle, access to early booth registration for the 2022 conference, and more? Join now by clicking here.

Sponsor Opportunities:
To view the current sponsorship form, with available opportunities and the associated benefits, please click here. The NRC offers its members the opportunity to sponsor a portion of a specific NRC FirstLook 2021 event.

NRC 2020 Safety and Special Awards Applications Now Available:
The NRC’s annual Safety Awards recognize NRC contractor member companies with exemplary safety performance during the year. The awards help safety programs stay up to date with industry best practices and serve as a valuable business development tool. To view the NRC 2020 Safety Award application please click here.

The NRC’s Railroad Construction Project of the Year Award recognizes exemplary NRC member project in two categories, the Large Project Category (projects with budgets over $10 million) and the Small Project Category (projects with budgets of $10 million or less). All types of rail construction projects are eligible for the awards and the purpose is to honor innovation, expertise, and quality project management. To view the NRC Rail Construction Project of the Year Award please click here.

The NRC's Field Employee of the Year Award recognizes a field employee employed by a contractor member companies who exhibits exemplary performance during the year. The purpose of this award is to recognize and honor the rail contracting employee who has demonstrated the most dedication and excellence in his/her field. To view the NRC Field Employee of the Year Award please click here.

For questions regarding the agenda, registration, sponsorships, the awards or anything else please reach out to NRC staff at info@nrcma.org or by phone at 202-975-0365.
NRC Past Chairman Mike Choat Announces Retirement

On November 1, former NRC Chairman and long-time Board Member Mike Choat will officially retire after 45 years in the railroad industry. Mike started with CSX out of college, beginning on a Signal and Communications gang, and ultimately working his way up to Chief Engineer at CSX; spending over 30 years with the company.

After his time at CSX, Mike joined Railroad Controls Ltd. (RCL), where he became the President. After RCL joined Wabtec, Mike served as the Vice President of Business Development until his retirement. Along the way, Mike attained a Masters in Business Administration from Jacksonville University. "Mike led the NRC as Chairman of the Board with great professionalism and leaves it on a strong foundation so it will go the distance" said NRC Chairman Jim Hansen of Herzog. In his retirement, Mike plans to spend time with his grandchildren, play more golf, and fish.
FRA Revises Track Safety Regulations

On October 13, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it has revised its regulations governing the minimum safety requirements for track. The agency amended its regulations on inspection of rail and verification of indications of defective rail to allow for continuous rail testing. The revisions went into effect on October 7.

The previous regulations required immediate verification of certain indications and required all others to be verified within four hours. That timeframe made it practically impossible for track owners to conduct continuous testing, the FRA filing stated. The changes include allowing inspection of rail using continuous rail testing, allowing the use of flange-bearing frogs in crossing diamonds, relaxing the guard check gage limits on heavy-point frogs used in Class 5 tracks, and more. To view the full announcement, please click here.
FRA Part 243 Templates Available Online to NRC Members

As a reminder, railroad contractors with less than 400,000 employee work hours have until May 1, 2021 to submit training programs. Contractors must start the submitted training programs on or before January 1, 2022.
Please contact NRC staff if you have any questions about safety materials and templates available to NRC members. NRC staff and Safety Committee members continue to engage with FRA seeking additional regulatory relief for this rule. To access the Part 243 templates you must be an NRC member. Not a member? Click here to join today.
SCRRA Request for Proposals

The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) invites proposals from qualified firms to provide track and signal infrastructure maintenance and support services for its commuter rail service known as Metrolink. Electronic Proposal Submittals are due on December 17, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. (PST). The Request for Proposals (RFP) is accessible is accessible by clicking here.

SCRRA will conduct a remote Pre-Proposal Conference and virtual Facilities Tour on October 29, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. (PST). Participants must RSVP by Tuesday, October 27, 2020 through the vendor portal to attend the Pre-Proposal Conference and Facilities Tour. The contract to be awarded is funded in part under grants issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Transit Administration. As a condition of financial assistance agreements between the Authority and U.S. DOT, the Authority has established a goal of 18.6% for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) participation on this project.
NRC Members: Receive your Hotel Engine Discount Today!

Hotel Engine is a hotel booking management platform built for business. With over 300,000 properties worldwide, Hotel Engine can save you an average of 26% off publicly available hotel rates for a variety of travel needs.

As an NRC member, you can save even more with a Silver upgrade on their HE Rewards programs, allowing NRC Member Companies and their employees the chance to earn extra points on every booking that can be redeemed for future travel.

All you have to do is click the following link: https://go.hotelengine.com/2020-09_NRC_Association.html and you will be prompted to create an account. From there NRC member companies can enjoy all the benefits that Hotel Engine has to offer! 
Penn State RTE Students Seeking Full-time Jobs/Internship

Penn State Altoona now offers a 4-year Bachelor’s of Science degree in Rail Transportation Engineering (RTE). This program, currently the first of its kinds in the US, provides hands-on railroad engineering education and training with special emphasis on railroad civil infrastructure. Other topics covered in the major include train operations, railroad mechanical systems, railroad signaling, and safety. At Penn State, RTE students gain the scientific and theoretical background required for professional engineering but also gain experience in on-track safety, job safety briefings, leadership and exposure to railroad-specific structures, systems and technology.

Penn State RTE students are currently seeking internships (summer 2021) and full-time employment with railroads, suppliers and rail consulting companies. If your company is interested in hiring students from Penn State Altoona for internships or full-time employment, please contact Prof. Bryan Schlake (bws14@psu.edu) and/or Program Coordinator, Prof. Stephen Dillen (sld130@psu.edu). More information about the Penn State RTE program can be found at: http://www.altoona.psu.edu/rte/
Staggers Act Celebrates 40th Anniversary

October 14 marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act, which de-regulated the railroad industry. This historic Act, signed by President Jimmy Carter, led to the creation of short line railroads and allowed freight railroads to earn enough revenue to make necessary massive investments into the rail network, which continue to be the life blood of rail contractors and suppliers.

As a result of the bipartisan legislation, the industry was transformed into one of the safest and most efficient modes of transportation. NRC, GoRail, and other industry trade associations support the Staggers Act and support the de-regulation of the railroad industry.
Industry News and Updates
On October 29, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced $291 million in Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair (SOGR) grants for 11 intercity passenger-rail projects in nine states. The grants will fund upgrades in rail infrastructure and enhance railroad safety and reliability, according to Chao. The evaluation and selection process considered several factors in choosing projects, including the project's abilities to improve service and safety and to meet existing or anticipated demand.

On October 28, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the Federal Transit Administration to begin construction on the largest public transit investment project in Indiana history. The project will extend the South shore rail line 7.8 miles from Hammond to Dyer and add four stations. Once finished, the service will provide a 45-minute direct rail connection between Lake County and downtown Chicago. "This $354.6 million federal infrastructure grant will better connect Northern Indiana residents to jobs, education and critical services," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. 

On October 23, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) announced that Jim Vena, chief operating officer, will transition to a new role by year’s end and will be succeeded by Eric Gehringer as executive vice president of operations, effective Jan 1. 2021. Vena will remain employed at the company as senior adviser through June 2021, after a celebrated career in the railroad industry. Gehringer has served in many capacities throughout his 15-year career at UP, starting in engineering and working his way up to his current role as senior VP of transportation. 

On October 8, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) awarded a contract to NRC member Hitachi Rail for the building of rail cars, with the option to purchase up to 800 cars. The contract includes provisions that might motivate the manufacturer to build an assembly plant for the project in the Mid-Atlantic area, and would provide several hundred jobs for the region. The cars will be designated at the 8000-series, and although the details of the contract are still being negotiated, WMATA CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld wrote a letter to his Board of Directors letting them know they (Hitachi Rail) had been chosen. 

Earlier in October, NRC Member Plasser American’s plans for the expansion of its Chesapeake, VA site were unveiled. The project, with an estimated investment of $52.6 million, is indicative of their commitment to the area and products “Made in USA.” Besides a new office building, the entire assembly area including the warehouse will be expanded to 229,000 square feet, with the goal of increasing output by more than 100%. The three main steps for the expansion project include a new office building by 2021, expansion of the assembly area and the warehouse by 2022, and further campus enhancements by 2023. 

On September 30, Italian railroad company Salcef Group announced it would enter the North American market by purchasing 90% of NRC member Delta Railroad Construction. Delta Railroad, which was founded in 1957 by Italian immigrant Cosmo Laurello, employs between 150 and 200 people annually. The company provides a variety of services throughout the country and the move "will help us in the U.S. and Canada" said chief operating officer Linda Laurello. The Laurello family will continue to be involved in the operation of the company going forward.
The NRC is a trade association representing businesses from across the nation in the rail construction and maintenance field. The NRC’s member companies 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.
Follow us for the latest industry news, and we'll see you next month!