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July 2017



Rail News: People

Rising Stars: Travis Kelly, Texas Central Partners LLC



Travis Kelly, 35

Vice president, external affairs
Texas Central Partners LLC

Job description: Kelly supports Texas Central’s local and state government relations, media relations, and digital and stakeholder outreach. The company is building a privately financed 240-mile high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies, Baylor University

Nominator’s quote: “In his multitasking role, Travis has shown how the economic and job-building benefits of the new passenger-rail [system] will benefit communities along the proposed route. He has almost single-handedly raised the project’s early profile, boosted by his meetings with local influencers, speaking engagements and media interviews. … This project would not be where it is today without his leadership.” — Rebecca Cowle, Texas Central Partners

Why did you go into railroading?
I learned the importance of personal engagement and information-sharing as a tool to effect change when I worked for the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, a Dallas-based nonprofit that facilitates meaningful public engagement in issues related to geopolitics and foreign affairs. My career in railroading began in 2008 when I joined a small public policy shop in Dallas that was working to promote high-speed rail in Texas. Our clients were cities and counties across the state which recognized the strong economic development power of transit-oriented development. Supporting these public officials who volunteered their time to bring passenger rail to their communities was an incredible learning experience that I draw from every day in my current role.

What career accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
In May 2011, the FRA awarded the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) a $15 million grant to conduct a Tier II environmental study of the high-speed rail corridor connecting North Texas and Houston. While we were still conducting preliminary studies and roughly three years away from initiating our own environmental study, we believed strongly in the project and wanted to pay for our own environmental review, rather than rely on state or federal grants.

I led Texas Central’s team of lawyers and other subject matter experts as we negotiated for more than two years toward the execution of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the FRA, TxDOT and a third-party environmental consultant. Signed in January 2014, this MOU laid the groundwork for Texas Central to pay for its own environmental review, while allowing the $15 million federal grant to remain in Texas to support a separate environmental review of the Fort Worth-Arlington-Dallas high-speed train corridor.

As a native Texan, I am proud of our team’s work with multiple stakeholders to help advance two projects critical to the future of passenger rail in Texas.

What is a little-known fact about you?
While serving as a livestock volunteer on a Massachusetts farm run by Heifer International, I taught a goat husbandry course. One night, I had the chance to rescue two kid goats who were at risk of being lost during birth.

What do you enjoying doing when you’re not at work?
I love to read news, cook and travel with my wife. We didn’t take our honeymoon until nearly three years after our wedding, but we made up for it by traveling to the United Arab Emirates and Oman. We’ve since been back to the Persian Gulf, Mexico, New England, Colorado, Florida and Northern California. And yes, we ride trains wherever we can.

What advice would you share with a first-year railroader?
Dive in and hang on. The railroad industry is fascinating and diverse. It’s also critically important to our national economy and security. Be open to different paths, because there are many ways to contribute meaningfully to this vast industry. Even if you do not have one technical bone in your body, there’s a place for you in railroading. It’s also full of incredibly gifted, patriotic and hard-working people whose importance is perhaps only fully understood by others in the industry.

What would you say to convince someone to consider railroading as a career?
Do it. You’ll find that while it’s a big industry, it’s also a very small world. Everybody is connected somehow and while there is fierce competition among rivals, we all applaud industry successes and breakthroughs. If you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, help connect people, goods and ideas and join an industry that is the envy of the world, railroading is for you.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that because this industry is old that it’s stuck in the past. Railroading is a sophisticated, high-tech industry where opportunities for innovation and optimization abound. Technical and non-technical creative minds will always be in demand.

Rising Stars 2017 Award Winners:


Winnie Chang
Winnie Chang

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Nick Chodorow
Nick Chodorow

Belt Railway Co. of Chicago


Robert Gordon
Robert Gordon

National Transportation Safety Board


Travis Kelly
Travis Kelly

Texas Central Partners LLC

Darrell Krueger
Darrell Krueger

BNSF Railway Co.


Michael Lefevre
Michael Lefevre

Brightline (All Aboard Florida)

Michele Malski
Michele Malski

Short Line Safety Institute

Julie Mink
Julie Mink

Tealinc Ltd.


Myat Ohn
Myat Ohn

HNTB

Annka Robinson
Annka Robinson

Dallas Area Rapid Transit/Trinity Railway Express

Danielle Ross
Danielle Ross

Spectrum Inc.


Mike Stickel
Mike Stickel

Lake State Railway Co.

Sarah Touey
Sarah Touey

Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon


Stu Towner
Stu Towner

Watco Cos. LLC

 



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