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U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) earlier this week joined rail industry officials on a tour of L.B. Foster Co.'s concrete tie manufacturing facility in Spokane, Wash.Attendees of the Tuesday visit included Steve Burgess, president of CXT Inc. and vice president of concrete products at L.B. Foster; Jeff Kondis, L.B. Foster’s manager of corporate marketing; Sean Winkler, grassroots coordinator, Railway Engineering Maintenance Suppliers Association (REMSA); and Lindsey Collins, VP of grassroots advocacy, National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association (NRC). L.B. Foster is a member of both REMSA and NRC.
During the tour, Burgess gave an overview of L.B. Foster and its current operations. Specializing in rail products, among other industries, the company employs about 100 people at the Spokane plant, which the company acquired from CXT Inc. in 1999.Also in attendance for the tour were Ross Lane, regional director of public affairs, BNSF Railway Co.; Ken Lucht, director of government relations, Watco Cos.; John Pollack, VP of marketing, Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad Co.; Neal McCulloch, VP of railroad services, Shannon & Wilson; and Josh Austin, area manager, RailWorks Track Systems."It is critical that manufacturers thrive in our community. I will continue to advocate for a smaller and more effective government and work with local organizations, like L.B. Foster, to create opportunities and jobs right here in the Spokane region," McMorris Rodgers told the group, according a press release.The rail industry representatives also had time to discuss some legislative matters with McMorris Rodgers, including the Dec. 31 federal deadline for railroads to implement positive train control. The attendees expressed their concern that a deadline extension is needed to avoid consequences and costs for not only companies directly affected by the railroad industry, but also for the local and national economies. They also thanked McMorris Rodgers for her support of the 45G tax credit. Introduced in February, the Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2015 (H.R. 721) would extend section 45G of the tax code, which expired last year.Also this month, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham's (D-Fla.) district director Mary Lee Kiracofe and economic development liaison Kent Watson toured the Georgia & Florida Railway (GFRR) in Perry, Fla., according to a press release.Owned by OmniTRAX Inc., the GFRR is a network of 264 track miles running from its headquarters in Albany, Ga., to northwestern Florida near the Gulf of Mexico. Connections are made with other railroads in the two states, including Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation.
Also in attendance on the Sept. 15 tour was Scott Remington, OmniTRAX’s division general manager Southeast; Todd Gruenemeier, Florida Department of Transportation’s freight, logistics and passenger operations rail manager; Gene Renner, GFRR’s general manager; Tim Johnson, a GFRR track inspector; and Ashley Bosch of Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell. The tour began at the Georgia Pacific plant, one of GFRR's largest customers. The group was then led on a three-mile hi-rail tour along the railroad. The group also discussed proposed upgrades to the line that could be made possible by an award U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program.
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